Lessons learned as a first-year allotmenteer

Borlotti beans, ready to dry in the airing cupboard.
Borlotti beans, ready to dry in the airing cupboard.

I’ve looked everywhere, but no-one has a cakey recipe for runner beans. Carrots, beetroot, courgette, potato, yes, yes, yes, yes, they bake up well with sugar, eggs, flour and spices until they’re unrecognisable as vegetables, making sure that children everywhere can say they’ve had at least one of their five a day.

But runner beans stay firmly in savoury section, there’s not even a runner bean roulade, let alone a beany cupcake. Let’s be honest, they’re not really that exciting as vegetables, unless they’re served with chorizo or chilli. And now I have hundreds of the damned things left over, enough to feed the entire village, but no-one wants them, I can’t give them away. The wall of the allotment is piled high with them as other allotmenteers try to pass on their excess beans to passers-by, without much success. Thank goodness for compost heaps, because that’s where most of them have ended up, but it is a very good compost heap.

I’ve now chalked up my first year down at t’allotment and have enjoyed the fruits and vegetables of my labour. When I say my labour, I mean our labour, Noel has been on digging and weeding duty. The vast swathe of couch grass and creeping buttercup I took over has been transformed to produce crop after crop, it’s a miracle and a tasty one at that, unless we’re talking about runner beans.

Lessons have been learned, especially at how prolific runner beans are when you plant them. Here’s my top five that will take me forward to a second year of partial self-sufficiency.

  1. If you sow all your seeds at once, they all grow together. There’s just two of us, we can’t eat the ten red cabbage that hearted up at the same time as the three different types of kale I grew. Kale chips, anyone?
  2. Nothing in the entire world is as satisfying as digging up potatoes. You plant a tatty old thing, it throws up leaves, stalks and tomato-like fruit, which is a bit weird, then when the time’s right, in goes the garden fork, out come dozens and dozens of potatoes. I mean, how does that work? It’s brilliant!
  3. Slugs materialise without warning, eat everything, leave slime and are immortal. I think they are transported from some kind of sluggy Enterprise-type spaceship where they live on slug pellets to build up their immunity. As far as I can see, they don’t like runner beans, so they’re not as daft as they look.
  4. Weeds materialise without warning, spread everywhere and are indestructible. I think they are mates with the slugs. There were, however, none near the runner beans.
  5. Home-grown fruit and vegetables taste better than anything you can buy anywhere, they are sweeter, juicier, crunchier and lovelier. And yes, that even applies to runner beans.

The seed catalogue has arrived, I’ve perused and salivated over its contents and made my order. Roll on spring!

2 thoughts on “Lessons learned as a first-year allotmenteer

  1. We’ve had our allotment for the past 3 months….not really planted anything, apart from some spuds. Most of the time has been spent clearing it of weeds. Looking forward to a full year on it.

  2. It’s a good time of year to be starting, all that lovely digging and mulching over the winter. Part of the fun is the planning – though I’m planning not to have all my veg ready at once!

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