Climbing French beans and freezing the snakes

Tall, long ‘A’ frames or towering wigwams overflowing with runner beans are a quintessential sight on British allotment gardens. And I used to grow them religiously.

I love runner beans but when Hannah and I moved into our home and I took on our current allotment – I went French.

I’m the only one that really likes runner beans and when you grow such prolific cropping plants, there’s only so many one can manage.

We all enjoy French Beans and by growing these instead, I still get my essential allotment feature and we all share in the eating.

French beans

French beans are perhaps a more refined crop than runner beans. They are wonderful to eat and if you only have a small space they are ideal as a few plants will reward you handsomely.

My go-to variety has been the RHS AGM Cobra. It has fantastic flavour and produces masses of stringless pods up to 8” in length.

Then I read about Mamba.

Touted as an improvement on ‘Cobra’, this plant produces double the yield and still has great flavour. I couldn’t resist.

Mamba is a more compact climbing bean which means it takes up less space in the garden. It produces clusters of beans that make picking easier too.

The trouble is they reward you (and I mean really reward you!) for a long time.

Beans, French or Runners, are joyous. I can’t help but smile when I return to the plot a day or so after picking a sack full to be greeted with yet another bounty to harvest. Whichever variety you choose to grow in your garden, remember that less is more (or certainly more than enough!).

French beans freeze really well and at this point in the year you need to pick a handful for eating fresh and another handful for the freezer during every visit to your allotment or kitchen garden.

French beans

French beans

Chopping french beans

I’ve always blanched the beans for a minute or two before freezing. Apparently, it preserves the vibrant colour of the beans and stops a particular enzyme breaking down and having a detrimental effect on flavour.

Earlier this year, I read a few blogs and articles that suggested it made no difference. There’s no real evidence for this other than the personal views of these authors but I thought I’d try it myself.

I’m always keen to find time-saving opportunities and so I sliced our beans and popped them in bags and into the freezer. The outcome is now in the hands of the freezer gods.

Freezing french beans

What do you think? I’d love to hear your views on the blanching effect. How do you freeze your crop? Drop me a comment below.


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12 thoughts on “Climbing French beans and freezing the snakes

  1. It would be interesting to know what commercial growers do to their beans before freezing, wouldn’t it?
    I know it helps for them to be just picked, super fresh, before any incling of decay takes hold.
    I don’t tend to freeze raw veg anymore. It’s never as nice as fresh and I find I don’t use it. I’m trying instead to grow seasonal winter veg all year round. Extra veg is given away or goes on the compost heap. If only I had a pig!
    However, if I make veg into something cooked first, then freeze it, it’s really useful as a quick ‘ready meal’. And taste good! Soups are a good one, especially as they are easy to pack into a small freezer. Not sure what could be made with green beans though?… I think another batch of chutney is on the horizon!

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    1. Hi Judy! That’s a very good point and it would be interesting to know what happens on a commercial scale. If I had been better organised, I would look to do the same with a winter veg garden. Delia has a runner bean chutney which I’ve made in the past to use up the glut.. I wonder if it would work with French Beans too?

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      1. Not sure… French beans have that slightly rubbery, squeaky quality… and I’ve never seen a recipe for it. I do think they freeze better than runner beans, so you might be doing the best thing if you want to preserve them.

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  2. I think that if you plan to eat your beans within say 3 months of freezing, then blanching is not necessary. For longer storage it is advisable, since blanching slows down the natural decay process even more than freezing does. I like freezing Runner Beans to have during the Winter, because they are seldom available in shops at that time (and commercial ones are never any good anyway), whereas you can get French Beans all year round.

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  3. I wish I liked runner beans – I have tried growing them, but childhood experiences still traumatise me! If you find one that doesn’t taste like a runner bean, do let me know. In the meantime I’ll make do with French beans… 😀

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  4. I still blanch green beans before freezing them or pickle them. Here in the US are some fabulous green bean pickles and green bean casserole at Thanksgiving which is really good and why I still grow green beans! I mostly grow more drying beans than fresh green beans/French beans now but I’m keen to hear how the freezer gods treated your unblanched beans!

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  5. I personally found blanching a bit a process, especially with large yields. It was music to my ears when an allotment veteran at the site said she no longer bothers blanching and hasn’t done for years, she said she hasn’t noticed any difference. I haven’t noticed any difference either if I’m honest… It’ll be interesting to hear your views on whether to blanch or not to blanch 🙂

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    1. Hi Adam. Yeah it really can be a bit of a faff. Especially as beans are so prolific too. I think it’s more about how long they are in the freezer. Ours typically get used up within a few months so I’m hoping it will be absolutely fine.

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  6. I blanched a couple of batches last year and then didn’t when the crop got out of control and I had my hands full with everything else coming off the plot. I didn’t notice any difference in taste, so this year skipped the blanching and open froze them on trays for 4 hours and then bagged them up.

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