Every allotment across the country will have plots studded with elongated wigwams. If, back in early spring, you were wondering what they were, July offers the answer: they are supports for runner beans.

A late starter, the bean needs warm soil. The legume lives up to its name by shooting up bamboo poles quickly through May and June before throwing out a host of red flowers. These are pollinated by bees and soon long pods develop. The beans need to be picked young – not more than 8-9 inches long – and steamed or boiled and then tossed in butter. Old runner beans can be stringy and the husks around the growing seeds can feel like a mouthful of sandpaper, so is best avoided.


  • 2lb Runner beans
  • 4 White onions
  • 1 ½lb Demerara sugar
  • 1 ½tbsp Turmeric powder
  • 1 ½tbsp English mustard powder
  • 1 ¼pint White vinegar
  • 1tbsp Cornflour


  • STEP 1

    Peel onions and cut small.

    basket of runner beans
  • STEP 2

    Slice beans and boil together with onions in salted water until both are tender.

  • STEP 3

    Strain and drain well then cut up small or put through mincer.

  • STEP 4

    Add sugar and 1¼ pints vinegar and boil for 15 mins.

  • STEP 5

    Mix turmeric, mustard and cornflour with the remaining vinegar add to the bean and onions

  • STEP 6

    Boil for another 15 mins.

  • STEP 7

    Allow to cool and put in sterilised jars. Leave to develop for four to six weeks.

Freshly picked runner beans are a tasty addition to any meal – and packed full of vitamin C, folic acid, protein and fibre.