(Phaseolus coccineus) Runner beans are native to mountainous Central America where Indigenous peoples still grow them as a staple crop, mostly for their edible tubers. Runner beans are a frost sensitive perennial legume that can be grown as an annual in cooler regions and are popular as a hummingbird attracting plant. Direct sow seeds after chance of frost has passed. Ideal germination is 65-75 F and seeds will germinate in 4-10 days. Sow seeds 2-3 inches deep, spacing them 4-8 inches apart at the base of a trellis or other support. Plants do not tolerate frost and grow best between 49-86 F. Locate in a full sun location with rich, well-drained soil. Do not over fertilize with nitrogen or you risk low flower and pod production. Water regularly. Use the very young pods as snaps or allow the seed to mature further for shell or dried use. Be aware that after the very young stage runner beans do need to be soaked and cooked in order to eat, as a toxin builds up in the pods. At the end of the season your plant may have produced edible tubers, so be sure to dig around and see! Growers in USDA zones 7 and warmer will be delighted to find this is a perennial crop for them.
An ancient heirloom runner bean dating as far back as the mid-1600s and first recorded by German botanist Michael Titus in his Catalogus Plantarum. This rare runner bean produces masses of gorgeous blooms ranging in color from tangerine to cherry red, making this edible ornamental pole bean irresistible to hummingbirds! Pods are much shorter than other runner beans; immature pods can be eaten just like sugar snap peas. The stout pods yield just 2-3 beans per shell. The pretty plump beans change from pink to purple, and then to a pure ebony black. Fantastic used like a kidney bean; they cook down to a creamy texture.