Vegetable of the Month – Runner Beans

29th August 2019

Runner beans have been growing in South America for over 2,000 years, and are a popular garden vegetable in Britain. Stronger in flavour and coarser in texture than green beans, they are also much longer and have attractive purple beans inside the pods.
English Runner beans are typically consumed when they are immature and tender, older beans will become too fibrous for consumption. Many English Runner bean varieties need to be stringed first to remove the long string that runs along the sides of the bean. There are some newer varieties of Runner beans though that have been breed for convenience to be string-less. Runner bean plants are also known for their vibrant scarlet and white blooms which are edible as well and offer a fresh and light bean flavor.

Runner beans are most often served cooked unless picked when very young and immature at which point they can be utilised like snap beans. The beans are typically first stringed then cut into short lengths using a knife or bean slicer. The cut beans can be boiled, steamed, baked, sautéed and braised. Chopped beans can be added to quiche, curry, stews, and casseroles. The flowers of the English Runner bean plant can be consumed as well and are popularly used as a garnish or added to salads. Their flavor pairs well with onion, leeks, potatoes, lemon, garlic, peaches, vinegar, butter, mustard, cumin, ginger, curry, nutmeg, tarragon, parmesan cheese, bacon, white fish and lamb. English Runner beans should be stored in the refrigerator and are best if used within two to three days.

Why not try the recipe below for a lovely summer supper dish!

Broad Bean & Runner Bean Risotto

150g/5½oz runner beans
dash olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
300g/10½oz risotto rice
1 litre/1¾ pints vegetable stock
3 tbsp Mascarpone (optional)
50g/2oz Parmesan (or similar vegetarian hard cheese), finely grated, plus extra to serve
200g/7oz cooked broad beans
3 knobs butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 heaped tbsp chopped fresh herbs (a mixture of chervil, tarragon, chives and flat leaf parsley)

String the runner beans, slice them into 2cm/¾in pieces and cook in a pan of boiling water until tender. Drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large lidded saucepan, then add the onion and cook over a low heat for 3-4 minutes, or until softened.

Stir in the rice and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously.

Pour over the stock, stir the mixture and cover with the lid. Cook over a low heat for 15-17 minutes, or until the rice is just tender.

Stir in the Mascarpone (if using), Parmesan, butter, broad beans and runner beans and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle over the herbs to serve.

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