In the summer, when the garden is in full production, I love to go through it and pick our meals. Whatever is ready goes into the recipe. So many great things are ready, and today’s special in growing food is scarlet runner beans. These beans are a win-win in the garden on so many levels.
Scarlet Runner beans are beautiful
Scarlet runner beans are beautiful. They can easily be grown instead of ornamental flowers. The rich green leaves with bright red flowers winding up a trellis make for a beautiful display, or privacy shield. The vine can grow 9 feet tall and will need some strong support.
The scarlet red flowers will attract bees and hummingbirds. The pods are about 20 cm long.
Scarlet runner beans are asy to grow
Scarlet runner beans are easy to grow. Did you know they are perennials with tuberous roots? Not for us though, since our winters are too cold for them to survive. But if you are in a warmer climate, plant once and enjoy forever. But even as an annual, they are a no-brainer. And just like other beans, they also grow quickly.
Beans need warm soil at least 15 C (60F) to germinate and grow, cold soil can actually cause seeds to rot. Sow 3 to 5 cm (1 to 2 in) deep and 15 -30 cm (6-12 in) apart.
Beans can be started indoors, but personally I do not find it worthwhile since they grow so fast once it warms up.
Scarlet runner bean seeds, just like other beans, can easily be saved. The mature bean is also a seed.
Scarlet runner beans are good for food
Scarlet runner beans are yummy, and the pods are edible at any stage. If you are into growing food – scarlet runner beans are a great choice. You can eat them raw while they are young and not yet fibrous, it makes for a fun snack in the garden.
But as soon as the pods mature and small beans develop, they are not safe to eat raw any longer. But they can be cooked, much like string beans.
The seeds can be used fresh or as dried beans. And even the starchy roots are still eaten by Central American natives, making it a very versatile plant.
Since our growing season is so short, we hardly get any mature dry beans. Most beans we use are the string beans that can be just fried with some garlic.
Scarlet runner string beans do not taste like other green beans, I find; they just look like them. Scarlet runner beans have more bite to them and a different texture. It is hard to describe what they do taste like – just yummy :).
As you see, my pods are not all the same size. I do not find that to be a problem. It is just convenient to pick them all once a week or so. I take all the big and useful ones and prepare them together. If you want all pods to be about the same size, you would have to pick more regularly and store them in the fridge till you have enough for a meal.
Green scarlet runner beans, just like any other variety can be frozen or pressure canned. See how to can dry beans here.
Scarlet runner bean recipe
Since scarlet runner beans ripen at the same time tomatoes do, it makes for a great combination. This time I had yellow tomatoes. They work just as great as red tomatoes do! Enjoy scarlet runner bean pods as a side dish with rice pasta.
- 1 onion
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- About a pound Scarlet Runner beans
- 2-3 sun ripe tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon real olive oil or water
- Saute diced onions in oil or water till they turn color
- Add minced garlic
- Wash and cut the beans into pieces
- Add them to the frying pan
- Add diced tomatoes, turn down the heat, and let cook for 15 minutes
- Season (I like herbal salt and chili)
If there are too many pods to use fresh, just let them mature till fall. Scarlet runner beans can be very productive.
The fresh beans look a bit like out of another world, don’t they? Just gorgeous! They can be cooked as is and do not need to be soaked. In about 30 minutes they are done and ready to be used.
More mature beans can be dried and used just like dry beans. They will turn gray when cooked and taste more like a white bean.
Use your favorite hummus recipe using scarlet runner beans instead of chickpeas. We do not have room in our urban garden to grow chickpeas, but we can grow the scarlet runner beans. This is a great way to eat what we grow in the garden.
Growing food is seldom as much fun as with scarlet runner beans. A good read for simple garden to table recipes is “The Four Season Farm Garden Cookbook”.
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Lisa M says
I’ve never grown runner beans, I’ll have to add this to next years garden plans! Thanks for the info!
Thanks again for linking up with Green Thumb Thursday. I hope to see you back this week.
They are pretty, and yummy. Hope you like them.
The plants are beautiful and I bet hummingbirds like them as well. I’ll keep the recipe and make it soon! Next year we will have scarlet runners in our garden!
It sure is a beautiful and yummy plant to grow in the garden.
You mention that once mature it’s not safe to eat them raw. Could y please elaborate? What is the danger?
Thanks, I follow your posts with great interest!
Beans contain a compound called lectin. Lectins found in undercooked and raw beans are toxic. Sadly packages of dried beans do not make note of the potential toxicity of beans. It is not just true for scarlet runner beans. Here is a good read: beans-undercooked-toxins
Someone gave me some seeds and I planted them in my plumeria pot (Southern California), and they produced a few seed pods. I may try them, a bit scary given your article, but I will cut some up and cook them. They are large and dark green pods at the moment. I imagine cooking thoroughly? Your recipe says 15 minutes. I will cook them with canned tomatoes and chilis, corn, and regular green beans.
No need to be scared. As long as those are just pods, cook them as you would green beans, it’s just the same. If beans have formed inside, you will need longer cooking times. By the way, you will not even want to eat under cooked beans, they do not taste good. So follow your taste and cook as long as needed.
Maggie Donnelly says
How do I know how mature the pod is? Should I just open one up to see how far along the beans are developed?
It really is easy to see, just look at the picture above. A mature pod looks almost like pregnant, with all the beans swelling inside. It also will get lighter in colour.
Can the scarlett runner beans be dried and used for planting the next year?
Yes, of course. All dry beans are seeds. Only if you grow different varieties to close together you might have some cross-pollination.
It’s Sept 30th and I am looking at a forecast of mid 40s to low 50s at night this week. The pods on my scarlet runner beans are different sizes. I would guess it would be best to keep them on the plant as long as possible, correct? Please confirm when I should pick them, how they should be dried. I appreciate the advice.
Scarlet runner beans are edible and enjoyable at all sizes and stages of growth. They are not hardy to frost, though. If there is frost in the forecast, pick them all. Otherwise, leave them to mature, if mature beans are what you are aiming for. Hope this helps.
Lyndsay McDonald says
Thank you for this article. It’s such a thorough run down of how to use the plant in each stage and a couple recipe ideas!! Excellent
Michael Mewes says
I picked up a red runner bean plant in the spirit of “there’s always room for one more” at our local greenhouse.
Planted it it in a big pot on our little south facing deck along with tomatoes in pots.
I was so blown away by the profusion of red flowers (and the hummingbirds that came with them) that I didn’t even look for beans, let alone think about eating them.
Thanks for enlightening me.
I’ll go pick some right now.
There are lots
Zone 3 Vegetable Gardening says
My son got into a pack of seeds and planted runner bean seeds in random places all over my greenhouse last August. I couldn’t believe how fast they grew! I knew they would have time to produce beans but I don’t have the heart to pull them out. It was like “Jack and the Beanstalk” in my greenhouse.
Robin Bourdon says
No one mentioned the wonderful edible red Flower. They actually taste like a floral bean bite. Nice salad topping or just a sweet treat while working in the garden.
Awesome, I did not know that. I do enjoy them a lot just for the look and the occasional hummingbird that comes by. Thank you so much for sharing.
I have a massive amount of scarlet runners with the mature pods hanging all over the place! And still more flowers halfway through September in the Pacific Northwest! They’ve gotten away from me as far as canning the green pods but I will let the rest go until the latest possible moment. Can the mature beans be pressure canned, in order to eliminate soaking and cooking at a later time? I’m hoping it would be similar to buying canned beans at the store, but without the massive amounts of salt or other preservatives. Drying is an option, of course, but it would save time later to have them already cooked.
Yes, any beans can be high pressure canned, scarlets are the same. Just follow your canner instructions.
Elaine Hurst says
Scarlet runner beans in Europe are always cut at an angle. Not such a fibrous texture then.
That’s a great way to do it too. Thank you for sharing.
I feel silly for asking this but I have the beans but don’t want to dry them..I want to eat them right away, how do I do that? Boil for a few min to release the toxins?
Yes, you can eat fresh beans, just boil them till done. How long will depend on the maturity of the beans.
David Maitland says
My scarlett runners are way past the mature stage and are now turning rust brown/yellowish. Can I save them and use them as beans or as seed them next year?
Yes, you can use them as dry beans. I have had mixed results with using homegrown beans as seeds. If you can insure there was no cross-polination, that should be fine.