An abundance of Climbing French Beans

More or less?

So, is it all about quantity as a vegetable grower? Or does quality matter more? These are the lofty questions I, as a novice gardener, have been asking myself as I have enjoyed the glut of vegetables from my garden this past month (with plenty more to come. It’s very exciting!)

My initial thoughts were – quantity, all the way! Certainly as someone starting out, it’s hard not to be lured into the prideful trap of wanting bursting truckles of beautifully arranged veg, like I am some kind of Edwardian kitchen gardener for the old estate, (I’m thinking along the lines of Downton Abbey. But with better plumbing, please.) And certainly quantity has not been an issue this year. We have had French and green beans galore, with the freezer now full, and my son and husband on strike. (‘No more beans this week. Please mummy. PLEAASSSEE’ is the cry that has echoed around the house. I am sure I don’t want to know what kind of torture my neighbours are thinking I’m inflicting on my son. Death by green bean probably won’t have crossed their mind.) We have had sweetcorn, kale (until the caterpillars arrived. What a sorrowful sight that was!), onions, courgette, peas, as well as soft fruit. All delicious and devoured by a (relatively) grateful family.

Ravaged brassicas munched by caterpillars of cabbage white butterfly. Will have to net them next year.

Though  I do have some reservations. The sugar snap pea variety we had, although abundant, was a little tough, even when picked early. The green bean variety has produced my own body weight in beans, but I am not convinced they are the most flavoursome – something you’d hope would be a guarantee if you are eating them about 15 minutes after you had picked them.

But my biggest disappointment has come from the tomatoes. Now, I say disappointment, but I am still quite gleeful that I have any red tomatoes, considering I a) live in Wales and b) don’t have a green house. Both the tomatoes that have been planted outside against the white stable wall, and the ones my husband swears at as he trips over them every morning in the utility have produced full crops (still going too) with a nice steady pace of ripening over the last 8 weeks or so. But there are a few varieties that just haven’t got eaten, because, quite frankly, I don’t like them very much! We have enjoyed some lovely cherry tomatoes, a pleasing yellow skinned variety of a bigger tomato, and a few other small varieties. But there is one (which we sadly have three plants of) that creates oblong cylinders of dull mush. I feel bad, and try to use them in cooking, but quite frankly, if I wanted tasteless tomatoes, I could just buy them from the supermarket with much greater ease.

I am aware that, above all things, I have been spoiled this year. How dare I complain about the one variety of tomato that grew and ripened, that I wasn’t too keen on! And I do mean it, with every piece of sincerity I have, when I say that any veg I grow, even if I’m not keen, fills me with happiness. I guess I might have the confidence next year to start vetting some of the varieties I choose to plant, and if I’m REALLY organised, I will write down in a safe place, the names of the ones I like, rather than having a vague remembrance that my poor mother has to attempt some kind of detective work on for me next spring.

Off to blanche yet another vat of beans…


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