Spilling the T HE French Bean Is So- Called Not Because It Is a Native of France but Because Its Cultivation on This Side of the Channel Started When the Huguenots Fled to England during the Reign of Elizabeth I. Beans

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 11, 2009 | Go to article overview

Spilling the T HE French Bean Is So- Called Not Because It Is a Native of France but Because Its Cultivation on This Side of the Channel Started When the Huguenots Fled to England during the Reign of Elizabeth I. Beans


Byline: John Humphries

THE French bean is so-called not because it is a native of France but because its cultivation on this side of the Channel started when the Huguenots fled to England during the reign of Elizabeth I.

Its home, like the runner bean, is South America, which explains why the seed refuses to germinate if planted too early into cold, damp soil.

Popular though it became in Britain, it was the French cooks who first took the bean to their culinary hearts, calling the dried seeds of the beans haricots, because they used them in ragots or haricots of mutton.

The French eat the bean and its seeds at almost every stage of its development, even drying them to cook during winter, while powdered French beans were once thought to strengthen the kidneys.

They were also used to relieve shortness of breath. It is said that Charles Darwin was in the habit of playing his trombone to his beans to encourage them to grow.

Today French beans are valued for their vitamin and mineral salt content.

French beans like getting into a warm bed. If it is too cold and wet they tend to rot in the ground and for this reason should not be sown out of doors until mid-April or early May, depending on where the garden is and whether spring has come early.

If sowing in mid-April, it is always best to be cautious, covering the soil with clear polythene or cloches three weeks before planting, and then raking it into a fine tilth on a warm day.

A light, rich soil in a sunny part of the garden, into which compost or manure has been dug, is best - cold, wet clay is deadly. Like all beans, they need lime to pH 6.5.

Take out a drill 2in deep and plant the beans at 10in intervals in rows 18in apart, not forgetting to sow a few extra ones at either end to fill any gaps in the rows where beans fail to germinate.

Afterwards they can be sown at three week intervals, a June sowing giving a crop in September/October although cloche protection may then be needed.

French beans can also be grown successfully in pots in a heated greenhouse to produce a crop by early HOME TRUTHS John Humphries

April but it is important to keep the roots moist and to open the greenhouse windows if the temperature rises above 65C. …

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