Nearly all vegetables grown in your garden should be picked smaller than you buy them from the shops and runner beans are no exception. Shops need to think about weight and profit, you only need to think about getting the tastiest vegetables you can. Picking them when they are about 15cm (6 in) long will ensure a tasty and stringless crop. If they are wider than your thumb, then you will probably need to destring them. Just use a knife or a vegetable peeler down both edges of the bean. Harvest them by either cutting with scissors or gently snapping them off at their heel (where the bean turns to stalk). If you spot a larger bean that has been previously missed, remove it as they slow down the overall bean production, and put it on your compost heap. If you start eating the large beans then you will always miss out on the ones that are just perfect.
Freezing Runner Beans
Runner bean plants can be very prolific and you will soon find yourself with a surplus of runner beans, especially if you are picking them when they are nice and small. The best way to store these extra runner beans is to freeze them. Use only fresh bright green runner beans, top and tail them and cut them into short chunks.
Runner beans need to be blanched before freezing. This helps to keep their colour, texture and flavour. Blanching (putting the beans into boiling water) is an important process because it destroys the enzymes and any bacteria in the beans that causes them to deteriorate.
The important thing to remember about blanching is that you are not cooking the runner beans, you are just leaving them in the water long enough to destroy the enzymes. For this reason, you want to be able to cool the beans as quickly as possible once they have had their alloted boiling time. Make sure you have a bowl of ice cold water ready to put your beans in to prevent them from cooking any further.
Use a large pan of boiling water, and do not add too many beans at a time. The water needs to come rapidly back up to boiling point and this won’t happen if you put too many vegetables in. If you are just processing one batch of beans you can use a colander or sieve to drain the water away. However, if you want to blanch several batches then it is best to use a blanching basket or chip basket, so that you can re-use your boiling water. Leave the basket in the water whilst it is boiling and then lift it out with the beans inside and plunge straight into cold water.
Blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes (start timing once the water has come back up to the boil). Drain, and plunge the beans into ice-cold water immediately. As soon as the beans are cool, drain and pat dry with a tea towel or kitchen towel. Place portion sized amounts of beans in freezer bags, remove the air, seal, and label.
To prevent oxidation, which can cause discolouration, remove as much of the air as possible before freezing. Draw the bag in around the beans, pushing all the air out, twist and seal firmly. If you want, you can remove the air with a straw before sealing.
If your freezer has a “fast-freeze” switch or section then use this. Food that is frozen quickly will have a better texture as the ice-crystals will be smaller and therefore less likely to destroy the texture of the food.
Runner beans prepared and frozen in this way will keep for 12 months. To use, boil from frozen for 5-6 minutes until just tender.
1. Growing Runner Beans – QUICKSTART GUIDE to growing runner beans
2. Planting Runner Beans – How and when to plant runner beans
3. Harvesting and Freezing Runner Beans – How to harvest and freeze runner beans
4. Runner Bean Growing Tips – Some tips to help you grow delicious runner beans
5. Runner Bean Problems, Pests and Diseases – Help is at hand if your runner bean problems are running away with you
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