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Beautiful bean climbs high, tastes great

Scarlet runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus) is grown as an annual in our Zone 5 location. This vigorous climber can be grown for its flowers, tender green pods or dried beans that resemble colorful limas.

Scarlet runners grow best in fertile, well-drained soil in sun. I have mine growing on a metal tuteur, which makes not only a showy display in my flower bed but attracts bees and hummingbirds.

Plant seeds 1 to 2 inches deep and 3 inches apart; thin to 6 inches apart once sprouted. Weed and water to keep soil moist, giving support to the stems as they start growing skyward. I use small sticks to guide the stems to my tuteur where I’ve also added string to give them extra growing support.

Flowers open at sunrise and fade at sunset. Flowers are followed by bean pods that can grow up to 1 foot. When you want to grow them only as an ornamental, remove the developing pods to encourage the plant to continue flowering. To keep heirloom varieties true, you must keep your plants isolated.

The edible flowers have a bean-like flavor and can be used in salads. You will need to be quick to harvest tender, edible pods from scarlet runners planted in the spring. They are in the best edible condition for only a day or two before becoming tough and hairy. They can be sauteed, baked, steamed, or boiled.

Most people wait and harvest the mature pods when they change from green to brown, allowing them to dry indoors for a few days before shelling. Light-colored beans are immature and it’s best to freeze them in an air-tight container to be used later in soups.

Allow mature beans to dry two weeks at room temperature before storing them in airtight containers in a dark, cool place. You may save the more perfect beans to plant next year.

These dried beans should be treated like other dry beans by soaking them in water several hours before cooking. The beans will swell up to three times their original size when fully cooked. White seeded varieties (Moonlight) can be used instead of cannellini beans in recipes and can also be pureed into hummus.

Rabbits and deer will often munch on your tender plants, but some chicken wire can deter them. Japanese beetles sometimes will feed on leaves, but you can just knock them into soapy water. Mexican bean beetles often skip your beans because of the hairy leaves and stems.

If you do notice leaves where the green tissue is missing, turn them over and look for bright yellow eggs and soft bodied yellow larvae feeding on leaves. While wearing gloves, crush larvae and eggs.

To learn more about this beautiful bean, go to http://go.osu.edu/scaretrunner.

Baytos is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.

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