The runner bean is also known as fire bean (Phaseolus coccineus L.). Its color varies from black-purple to beige-brown.
Originally native to Central and South America, the runner bean is very sensitive to cold and frost. Germination and growth require a certain temperature and humidity. Due to the warmer climate, it now also feels at home here - especially in Styria. In 2016, the Styrian runner bean was recognized by the EU as a protected designation of origin. This is only possible for products where there is a direct link between the food and the origin. The Styrian runner bean must therefore be harvested and processed in Styria.
The preparation forms of the runner bean are varied: cooked as a side dish, in soups, salads or in vegetable stew. A well-known specialty is the Styrian runner bean salad. Before consumption, the beans must be cooked to render the toxic phasin harmless. After soaking for several hours (in a ratio of about 1:3), for example overnight, the subsequent cooking time is about 1 to 2 hours. The addition of spices mitigates the bloating effects of the legumes. Cooked runner beans are a good source of protein and rich in vitamin C among legumes.
The runner bean belongs to the legume family. It is an annual and grows with its twining stem 2 to 7 m high. The leaves are long-stalked and three-toothed, and the entire margins are usually broad. The erect flower clusters are longer than their bracts and twelve to 20-flowered. The shuttle beak of the rich red or white butterfly flowers is coiled only one to one and a half times and the flowers are cross-pollinated. The five to eleven mostly purple seeds, speckled with black, are in 12-35 cm long 2-3 cm wide straight or only slightly curved rough pods.
Around 90% of Austria's total runner bean production comes from Styria, especially from southeastern Styria, where runner beans are grown on more than 200 hectares.
Sowing takes place between the end of April and mid-May, at a soil temperature of about 8 to 10 degrees Celsius. Soil temperatures of 10-15 °C are needed for uniform germination. Too low temperatures during germination and juvenile development cause reduced, stocky growth and lower yield.
Beans are sown at a soil depth of 2-4 cm as single seeds spaced 6 to 8 cm apart in a row or as cluster seeds with five to seven seeds per planting site. Germination takes place underground.
After about two weeks, the plantlets germinate and are relatively undemanding during growth, additional watering is necessary only in case of high drought. As far as fertilization is concerned, no pure nitrogen fertilization should be applied, as beans belong to the weakly nutritious vegetables, but they do require additional potash. Beetle beans do not make any special demands on soil and nutrient supply and are also suitable for harsh locations.
Today, Styrian runner beans are cultivated either in trellis or hedge culture or in combination culture with corn. In trellis or hedge culture, wooden stakes are connected with wire, over which strings are then wound. This creates a trellis or hedge. For harvesting, own machines are used. The corn acts as a climbing aid for the bean plants in the combination crop. This type of cultivation requires a high level of expertise to ensure the best possible growth of both crops.
Beans grown in Europe are day-neutral, meaning that their flowering is independent of the duration of daylight, which in turn is why there are early, medium-early and late varieties.
Favorable plant partners for beans are savory, marigolds, tomatoes, celery, lamb's lettuce, radishes, chard, and carrots. Leek species such as leeks, garlic, leeks, as well as fennel and other legume species such as peas proved to be rather unfavorable.
Beans and other legumes such as peas, soybeans or clover should not be grown on beans for three to four years.
The conservation of diversity is of great concern to us, therefore 126 Phaseolus coccineus samples can be found in the Austrian Register of Genetic Resources in the gene bank of the AGES.
Development of heat-resistant varieties
Due to climate change, the probability of hot spells in Austria is increasing, threatening crop losses in runner beans. To avoid this, the development of more drought- and heat-tolerant beetle bean varieties is important. To this end, we have identified molecular markers in research projects to support future runner bean breeding, in particular the breeding of optimized varieties.
Last updated: 07.06.2023