How to Grow Beans 4 Favourites for Healthy People and Planet

Susan Young is passionate about growing beans in a cool climate. Discover her tips for producing a homegrown staple from easy to grow varieties.

Walking through the back streets of Oaxaca in Mexico some years ago, I came across a small open-fronted warehouse. There, stacked high, some open and spilling their contents onto the floor, were sacks upon sacks of beans. I’d never seen so many beans and never seen such amazing, colourful variety. That was the moment I fell in love with beans.

Fast forward about ten years and stored in glass jars I have all kinds of dried beans that I’ve grown in my vegetable patch. There are giant Greek beans and tiny rice beans. There are cherry red and purple beans, and round ones like beads from Eastern Europe. I have laundry white and pistachio green beans from France, earthy black beans from Northern Spain, golden brown beans from the Netherlands. These jars of beans hold the delight of meals to come – Greek beans in tomato sauce, vegetarian cassoulet, aromatic dahl-like yellow bean dishes, lemon scented salads of pale green flageolet beans and brimming bowls of black beans each topped by a fiery, pickled pepper.

In a world where climate change, biodiversity loss, food security, and diet-related illnesses are major concerns, changing diets to eat more plant based protein – and growing more beans in our vegetable plots – may be one of the single most effective things we can do, as individuals, to build a better future.

If you haven’t already discovered the world of beans, here are four you might start with. Given the restrictions on seed imports, obtaining bean seeds by post from outside the UK is not permitted. So I have kept my recommendation to four that I am confident can be obtained from within the UK. If you are travelling or live further afield, make a beeline for the markets and speciality food shops and search out local beans that look good. Chances are they will flourish in your garden.

Photos © Susan Young and Brian Wiltshire

Black beans have

beautiful lilacpurple flowers.