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From plot to pot: Borlotti beans

PUBLISHED: 12:35 15 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:49 20 February 2013

From plot to pot: Borlotti beans

From plot to pot: Borlotti beans

Belinda Grey offers a taste of autumn on a plate

Belinda Greyconjures upa taste of autumn on a plate

The vivid colours of autumn are not only beginning to show on the trees but radiate in the vegetable garden. Golden bronze pumpkins, terracotta squashes and flames of deep red and pink from Borlotti beans, winding up wigwams are lighting up my kitchen garden. September has come and with it the start of heartier eating. Borlotti beans are delicious as well as beautiful and shelling their crimson pods to release the mottled beans is an exciting experience. Hugely popular in northern Italy, they are one of my favourite home grown crops that I would otherwise have to buy dry or even worse purchase in a can!
Shelled and simply boiled until tender, with salt added after cooking to avoid toughness, then drizzled with a quality olive oil, they are a unique legume and one I always include in my planting plan. Lingua di Fuoco is the easiest to source although chefs swear Lamon has the greatest flavour. Grow seed 5cm deep under cover in pots from mid-spring until late summer, transplanting or sowing outside 25cm apart in rows 45cm apart, once the frosts have passed. They love plenty of organic matter dug in and you will be rewarded with heavy cropping after several potash feeds once the flowers appear.
Harvest the stripy, fresh red pods from late summer up to the first cold snap just as the
pods start to brown and eat immediately. If they are to be dried then leave them on the supports to thoroughly dry-out. I encourage you to enjoy them fresh; squid, chorizo and borlotti are a wonderful combination for a warm salad. Cook simply and serve with a lightly poached egg on top. They are a perfect partner for lamb when gently boiled then tossed with roasted tomatoes and aubergines or tenderly cook beans and merge with baby artichoke globes picked now in their final seasonal burst, grate with a strong Parmesan cheese and scatter with finely chopped giant leaf Italian parsley; for me, the perfect plate for early autumn.

Belinda Gray runs a vegetable gardening school near Woodbridge and offers seasonal day and longer courses to inspire. Please contact her at or call 01394 384712


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