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For flowers, for eating, for an arbor...scarlet runner beans.

For flowers, for eating, for an arbor . . . scarlet runner beans

You get a double bonus with scarlet runner beans: they're good to eat, and the plants are exceptionally attractive.

Throughout the growing season, these vigorous plants produce masses of bright red blooms, followed by edible beans. Eat the beans young, as snap beans, or when they mature, as green or dried shell beans.

In the garden, scarlet runners are so good-looking that many people think of them as ornamental plants. They make a lush screen when trained up a trellis or other upright support (you can even use strings attached to the side of your house). Some gardeners train them up poles and pinch off the growing tips once the plants reach the pole tops. Or use them on an arbor, as shown above. Plants grow quickly from seed, and can reach 10 to 12 feet tall by the end of summer.

You can get seeds from a nursery or mail-order supplier. Sow this month, spacing seeds about 1 to 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Thin seedlings to about 1 foot apart. Protect the plants from snails and slugs.

Harvesting the crop

To enjoy scarlet runners as snap beans, harvest them young and small, as shown above. Mature beans may grow to 9 inches long, but by then they're too tough and stringy to make good snap beans.

Some people prefer to wait until the beans swell in the pods, then harvest them as green shell beans. They are quite tasty at this stage, with a flavor like that of lima beans. Pick the pods as soon as you see they are swollen with beans.

To try them as dried shell beans, allow them to mature on the vine; harvest them after the vine has dropped most of its leaves. If a rainstorm threatens during the maturing process, cut off the declining vines and let them dry in a protected, well-ventilated spot. When pods are brittle, harvest the beans.

Mail-order sources

The companies listed here offer scarlet runner beans: J.L. Hudson, Seedsman, Box 1058, Redwood City, Calif. 94064 (catalog $1); Redwood City Seed Co., Box 361, Redwood City, Calif. 94064 (catalog $1); Shepherd's Garden Seeds, 7389 W. Zayante Rd., Felton, Calif. 95018 (catalog $1); and Stokes Seeds Inc., Box 548, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240 (free catalog).

Photo: Exuberant scarlet runner vines festoon wrought-iron trellis (left). Harvest the beans small and you can cook them as you would snap beans
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jun 1, 1986
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