When it comes to the gardener Philippe Hässlekvist, his infatuation with peas and beans is impossible to miss.
Peas and beans are super-crops that seemingly have everything – good for the environment, easy to grow and nutritious. Give them extra space in this year's kitchen-garden! Properly cultivated, they become a decorative highlight - and there are lots of fun varieties to choose from!
In the kitchen garden at Fredriksdal's open-air museum in Helsingborg, the summer harvest is planned long before spring is over. The vegetables grown here are often old varieties with an exciting history. And the gardener, Philippe Hässlekvist, is particularly fond of peas and beans.
“Legumes belong to an exciting plant family and deserve some attention - few other species have so many benefits”
Almost fifty kinds of legumes are grown here; a display of their abundance of variety. Above all, there are different garden beans; snap beans, wax beans, string beans and common beans. The main focus is Nordic classics such as brown beans and forgotten local varieties such as Gotland's speckled bean and “Gnesta's Favourite”. But he also cultivates European varieties, such as French gourmet beans and Italian cooking beans.
-I am passionate about diversity. You don't just have one kind of bean, you have many!
Fredriksdal's kitchen-garden has been recreated according to the prevailing style of the 1850s and right beside it is the manor from the late 18th century. At that time, the garden's main task was to provide both men and women with fruit, berries and vegetables. The occupant families were well traveled, and the gardeners of various estates and farms in Europe often exchanged plants and seeds with each other. This made for richness in variety already back then.
Above all, the kitchen-garden's function was to produce large amounts of food. Today, we also want it to be a beautiful part of the outdoor environment. And many of the historic peas and beans are truly spectacular. They vary widely in color and shape. The pods can be yellow, violet, streaky, green… Some are several decimeters long, for example the Golden Gate one. Others are short and saber-shaped. And then of course you also have lovely flower beans!
“There are so many colorful varieties: yellow Neckargold, green Cobra, violet Blauhilde...”
Giant beans that easily grow over three meters tall are a spectacular feature of the kitchen garden. They need good support to climb on, preferably long cabers. At Fredriksdal, Italian Borlotto and French Flageolette beans hang down from several meters high “wigwams”.
Equally tall are the flower beans, or rose beans as they are also called. They were brought to Europe after Columbus' discovery of South America in the late 15th century and are wonderfully beautiful with flowers in white, red, pink and a mix of both.
-And they should not just be grown as decoration, because they taste as good as they look, Philippe insists.
Among the flower beans, Painted Lady is a real heritage variety, with mixed flowers in light red and white. It has allegedly been cultivated since the 16th century but is only formally documented since 1855. Even the flowers are edible and go well in salads, and the immature pods are eaten as haricots verts.
Another fun way to grow beans is to let them climb on arches. At Fredriksdal, several different types form a whole tunnel of tall varieties in different colors: the yellow Neckargold, green Cobra, and the violet Blauhilde to name a few. A white-painted garden statue completes the picture.
As a climbing support you can also use bare birches where the branches are cut down to short stumps; otherwise ordinary bamboo sticks will do just fine. A more original way is to place a skimmer at the top of a cane and from there let the cords run down to the ground. The beans climb vigorously, and come summer, it will have become a proper feature of the garden!
Broad beans, which are their own group of beans, have characteristic plumpness to their growth. Among them is the special English variety Chrimson Flowered, from 1778. For a long time it existed only as privately owned and was grown within the same family for hundreds of years. Before the last branch of the family died, some seeds were donated to Kew Garden in London where it is still sold. More common varieties are White Emergo and Painted Lady. Peas also belong to the legume family and among them there are both sugar peas from the late 1800s and traditional field peas with purple flowers and violet pods.
Fredriksdal was originally built as an estate for Fredrik Wilhelm Cöster; a summer place near the city but with all the pleasures of rural life. The last private owner lived until 1916, after which the park and garden were donated to Helsingborg's city to become a museum to enjoy and learn from. The condition was that the place be preserved in its original condition - and so it is.
It is not at all difficult to imagine anyone in the basket chair on the manor's porch, with a kitchen cloth on their lap and a basket of beans to rinse before the men sit down to eat.
The garden bean, P. vulgaris, originates in South America, where it has been cultivated for at least 8000 years.
The Spanish brought the bean to Europe in the early 16th century. It was first in the 1820s that the first, low-growing, beans were traded. They were green and often violet-spotted; the yellow wax bean came first around 1830.
To grow beans
Beans have the special ability to create their own fertilizer by absorbing nitrogen from the air. Therefore, they can often be grown on nitrogen-depleted soils. The beans thrive in molten, water-bearing, lighter soil. All forms of beans, except the broad bean, require quite a lot of heat and cannot withstand frost. Hence, choose a warm and protected spot for cultivation. Can be sown at 15 degrees of soil temperature, right when spring has properly sprung.