Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Friday, 31 August 2007

Salford Black runner beans

Salford Black runner beans were one of the first heritage seeds I received after I joined the Heritage Seed Library, since then I have saved my own seeds. The long green pods are deeply textured and develope a sooty purple/black tinge as they mature (probably not a selling feature if you're auditioning veg for the supermarket shelf!) but they remain stringless until the seeds become large, and have a beautiful flavour - both key qualities if you're choosing a bean for the kitchen garden. Each year they outgrow their wigwam, my husband likes to give them room to reach for the sky - last year they were given a strong string from their wigwam to the high brick garden wall. This year they got a giant rustic archway, the jet black seeds were pushed hurriedly into the soil in mid-May, once they got started there was no stopping them and they have covered the archway in a cloak of huge green leaves, vivid orange-red flowers and long green pods.

One plant has some interesting patterned leaves which are very attractive - I wonder if I can continue this variegated variation?.

The name Salford Black conjured up images of scenes by L S Lowry, was the colouring on the pods reminiscent of the sooty industrial town? For some reason this annoyingly set off a memory of that irritating song which popped into my head everytime I neared the bean arch. Aaaaaaagh..... go away!!!!! But the other day I was leafing through the Heritage Seed Library catalogue and came across this:

"Salford Black
Grown by Mrs P A Woodward's family for about 40 years, this variety is known to come from Salford, a village in the Cotswolds."

The Cotswolds!!! not Lancashire after all, I was immediately freed from the haunting song (please note: I have nothing against Salford, Lancashire or the paintings of L S Lowry, but I just don't like that song, you might, I don't).

This is the picking from the vegetable garden last night - lots of rather large courgettes and beautiful Salford Black runner beans. Surplus beans can easily be blanched and cooled then bagged for the freezer - lots of green beans for the winter months.


  1. I like this post. I was trying to figure out what song(thanks for the link)so clicked on and found this very interesting. Where I grew up in the U.S. we had smaller versions of this industrial city...in..New England. Mine was known as a "mill town". I really liked this a lot as our buildings were and still some are similar. A view into the past. Interesting the people were like matchsticks. They were here too,up until the last few decades. Not anymore.

  2. I am so with you on that song. However, living up here in Lancashire, plus driving to work past the house that Lowery lived in with its blue plaque, then driving past his statue which sits on a bench with pencil and sketchbook poised in hand, I have to kind of shut down to it all. Also tonight my son is off to The Lowery, Salfords art theatre, bit of a theme going on here, I can hear the opening notes.... Enough stop!

  3. And-he-painted-matchdog-men-and-matchdog cats and dogs.. you mean that one?.... love it!

  4. I love the variegated leaves on the one plant. I also like the idea of the purlish-black tinge to the plants as they mature. That is just cool.

    The bean teepees are amazing ... I wish my plants filled out as yours do.

  5. I was not game to click on your link for fear of "matchstick" men.
    But I love the beans (they don't do well in the tropics!)and remember my pink runner beans, grown in
    Versailles tubs on a London roof.
    Your garden is a delight.Thankyou for sharing.

  6. Celia, those leaves are utterly beautiful. Exactly why heirloom varieties need to be nurtured and grown! What did you make with your bounty?

  7. Meg - Salford, is one of the Lancashire mill towns - and like all such towns has gone through vast changes since the decline of the industries that created it. It's now known for being the home-town of one of Britain's most aclaimed 20th century artists: L S Lowry.
    (and it has no link whatsoever with my lovely Balck Salford beans!)

    Joy - sorry to remind you of that sound from the past! 1978, there we were, wailing along to "Wuthering Heights" with Kate Bush, and then we got . . .

    Matron - I knew someone would say they like it!!!

    Kate – wouldn't it be fabulous to develope a variegated leafed runner bean!

    Dinahmow - thank you for visiting. I'm sure you can grow lots of fantastic exotic things where you live.

    Lucy - I love these runner beans, they are so tender and full of flavour! These went into a fritatta. They are also excellent in risottos, curries, casseroles, salads - a very versatile veg.

  8. I love runner beans. Last year in my old and bigger garden in Leeds, I grew my first runner beans. They grew so large, I was overloaded with the things! Fortunately I could eat them every day. Such a cracking vegetable, synonomous with our (so-called) summer.


  9. I just had some of these over the weekend (mine were Scarlet Runner Beans) and they were delicious both raw and cooked!

  10. Those beens look so fresh and inviting, Celia. Ours haven't been great this year. They are very near some tall trees and haven't thrived.

  11. David and Meg - runner beans aren't a fashionable veg but they can be so delicious and versatile and it's so easy to grow your own.

    CS - runner beans need lots of moisture as well as some warmth and sunshine - even with all the rain we've had your beans have had to compete with the tree roots. Salford Black is such a great variety - top marks for flavour and texture, the pods grow to 35cm (14 inches). We're saving the best looking pods for next year's seed.

  12. We live outside of Chicago in the USA and my son and I are laughing because we also planted these beans earlier this spring when we moved into our new house. They had a nice big 'tepee' bamboo trelis and have gotten so heavy they pulled it completely over! :) I love your husband's archway- maybe next spring we will venture into the forest preserve nearby and look for two large, sturdy, curved branches that have fallen and try that. We just got our last harvest here- it's still pretty warm, but frost is coming soon.


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