The other day we had a hearty chestnut and bean hotpot made with our own dried borlotti beans. It occurred to me that I’d started work on that tea 10 months earlier which is a heck of a lot of prep time.
The beans were planted in toilet rolls on the 4th of April last year according to my spasmodic records. This turned out to be a wee bit early and we planted them out when they started getting a bit leggy – before the last of frosts and the inevitable happened. Frost damage is the sort of thing you might just be able to avoid if you’ve got a back garden; but its hard getting down to an allotment to cover up your precious little plantlings before sunrise to avoid the sun’s rays striking frozen plant if its 2 miles away.
Nevertheless with good wishes and a bit of patching up holes with fresh unsprouted seeds we managed to get a decent crop. We picked just a few when the pods were fat and green with red spots to give us fresh pale green beans, with, well you guessed it, red spots which could be cooked like broad beans. The rest we left on the vines until they had started to dry out, those which weren’t dry by the time it was time to take down the beans were dried as they were, but inside. When everything looked crispy we emptied the pods and gave the beans a final dry before stashing them in a kilner jar. Admittedly I was initially somewhat disappointed to discover that after shelling and drying the beans I only had one storage jar full – which from a financial point of view makes no sense whatsoever (I’d probably spent hours saving about £1.50).
In February everything feels different. Now that our supplies of last years crop are fast running low and its only the dried or salted beans and a couple of plants that have overwintered that we still have in the veg department (excluding pickles). So being able to turn some of small borlotti beans into hunks of comfort food is great.
We cooked the dried beans much like you would other dried beans; soaked overnight then pressure cooked for 25 minutes (though normal boiling for an hour is an alternative). They then got transfered to the slow cooker with the chestnuts, herbs and veg, with herb dumplings added at the end. They got big and fat and soft and yumilicious.