Greek Giant Bean is a Runner Bean

There is a little Greek Shop near me. Last time I stopped in, they had some very large beans. I couldn’t resist, so I bought them. These are labeled as “Greek Giant Beans” (in both English and Greek). They were packaged in Greece and most of the package markings are in Greek. To my mind, that makes them a pretty authentic “Greek Giant Bean”.

They were packed by: K. Karageorgious Bros SA of Athens, Greece. ( I’d type it in with Greek letters, but I don’t know how to get them from a PC Keyboard!).

In doing my research on these beans, there was some confusion over what species they might be. Some folks said they were Runner Beans, others said “Common Bean”. (Phaseolus Coccineus vs Phaseolus Vulgaris).

Well, there’s a simple way to find out! Common beans raise the seed up out of the dirt and the first two leaves are made out of the seed halves. Runner Beans, being generally large, have “issues” pushing a giant seed through the dirt if they got buried, so they have evolved to leave the bean in the dirt and just raise a new set of leaves on a sprout out of the dirt.

As I wanted to find out if these beans were “live” or had been killed by some processing or other, I was going to sprout some anyway. May as well stick them in some dirt and see what they do.

A definitive answer the easy way: Observation.

Here are two pictures of my sprouting bean seed. (The plant in the background is a Red Kuri Squash that is having a seed viability test done too). The pot is a 3 1/4 inch or 8 cm pot. One picture includes a dime, the other a quarter, for a size reference. Belive it or not, I selected the SMALLEST beans from the package for testing. These are really big beans!

As you can see, the seed halves are staying in the dirt and a new sprout with its own leaves is being raised. The Greek Giant Bean is a Runner Bean, no doubt about it. Phaseolus Coccineus.

Bean Greek Giant dime DSC_6251

Bean Greek Giant dime DSC_6251

Here is what it looked like all of 1 1/2 hours later. These guys grow FAST!

Bean Greek Giant quarter DSC_6252

Bean Greek Giant quarter DSC_6252

As I type this, about another 2 hours along, the stem is almost straight up and the leaves are starting to unfold. Just amazing to watch growth in real time.

At any rate, I’ll be planting some of these in the garden this year just to see what they look like (vine length, flower color, etc.). Besides, I woke them up, it would be rude not to let them have their “day in the sun” ;-)

UPDATE: This is about 24 hours after that last picture. I’ve set it outside with the fence in the background so it could get some full sun. Just amazing to think that 2 day before this it had barely stuck out a root.

Greek Giant Bean 24 hours Later (squash in background)

Greek Giant Bean 24 hours Later (squash in background)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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9 Responses to Greek Giant Bean is a Runner Bean

  1. Jason Calley says:

    Hey E.M., if you are interested in some of the older and hard to find varieties of beans (and other foods as well) you may want to check out Rancho Gordo.
    http://www.ranchogordo.com/
    I think they are out in your neck of the woods — fairly close anyway. Their Good Mother Stallard beans and their Crimson Popcorn are wonderful. I have done business with them for the last few years and always been pleased. Many of the varieties they carry were very common and popular a few hundred years ago. Maybe there was a reason why… :)

  2. PhilJourdan says:

    You woke them up? WHo is going to change their diapers? LOL

    Having them grow in real time makes them perfect candidates for elementary school classes (or use to – I remember growing my own beans in 2nd grade).

    Keep us informed of the progress!

  3. R. de Haan says:

    Love those beans and I love the Greek kitchen.
    I’m really curious how many ‘giant beans’ you have harvested at the end of the season.

    We have great weather here in Germany this week, 25 degrees Celsius, no wind, no clouds, but cold nights.

    I think I do some planting as well just for the fun.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    @R. de Haan:

    The Scarlet Runner beans I grow each year climb about 15 feet up the “Fuitless pear” that is dominant in that end of the garden. They take over that limb (which droops to about 4 feet off the ground) and make a “waterfall” of scarlet red flowers just outside my livingroom picture window.

    Which then becomes the daily focus for my Giant Golden Nugget bees and both emerald and scarlet throated humming birds. (Which bird varies year to year).

    But when it is “hot”, they flower without setting seed. Great for the birds and bees (and my entertainment) but not so great for yield. Just a tiny bit cooler, the yield is quite large.

    Picked very young, they are a nice green bean. A bit older and larger, the pods get a “woven” texture. I’m fine with it. The spouse wants green beans to be like custard…

    From 2 or 3 plants in about that number of square feet I get a quart or so of dry beans each year (even though I don’t try at all and a lot of the pods are allowed to just do “whatever”… some from last year still hanging from the tree on bits of old vine. They make an interesting chili, but the sauce doesn’t get inside the beans all that well, so you tend to get a “spicy sauce / mild bean” effect. One cooked bean fills an entire teaspoon, so sometimes it’s “bean and not much sauce” in a given mouthful… I’ve tried cutting them in half and that “mixes better”; even if it does look a bit odd to have your chili on a plate and to be taking steak knife and fork to the beans, one at a time. Did I mention they are big beans? ;-)

    My hope is that the Greek Giants will be more “heat tolerant” as Greece is not that cold a place. We’ll see. The white seed implies a white flower, but it could be colored (it’s not always a direct match, just often for the runner beans).

    Oh, at the “shelly stage” they are a delight too. Take a pod that’s gotten too big and is showing seeds in it, but still green (and with the pod texture a bit too rough) and “shell them out at the shelly stage” and they are very nice in a small dish with butter on them. And a knife and fork ;-)

    The Greek recipes for these guys looks like it would be great, so I’ll have to give it a try:

    http://www.greek-recipe.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article100

    This one gives a US substitute bean in a Greek Giant recipe:

    http://www.food.com/recipe/Gigantes-Greek-Giant-Baked-Beans-59851

    With a video:

    http://thursdayfordinner.com/2008/11/gigantesyiyantes-greek-giant-baked-beans/

    FWIW, I’m getting a regrowth from last years roots on my Scarlet Runners. That’s the 3rd year in a row for these particular roots, I think. So clearly they can overwinter here as roots. Supposedly they grow larger from prior year root stock. We’ll see… Last year was great…

    There is a “knot” or “node” about 6 inches off the ground where the buds form. As long as that is left intact, it looks like they will regrow. (i.e. don’t cut below that as then there are roots, but no ‘leaf bud’ to start a new top).

    FWIW, there is a larger(!) form of the Greek Giant Bean called the Elephant Bean. I’m going to visit my Greek Shop again and see if he has any of those ;-)

    IF these are ‘warm tolerant’ (or if things have cooled off enough for the Runners to set seed even in July and August) I’ll be looking to do more of them. Bunnies love their very large flush of leaves. I like the beans. They fix nitrogen into poor soils. I’ve seen no bugs on them at all (other than the bean weevils on stored seeds, so freeze them for 2 weeks after drying). To the extent the Greek Giants are similar, they will make for a nice individual bean as well as useful ‘breeding stock’ for cusomizing. ( I wouldn’t mind making a “Giant Scarlet” ;-)

    This site has a discussion of them and at the bottom of comments a fellow in Greece says they grow in the mountains but are poor producers elsewhere. So perhaps they have the same ‘high temp cut off’ on fertilization. We’ll see.

    http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/legumes/msg0113352632519.html

    Even if they are “no worse than Scarlets” I’ll keep growing some. Having a giant waterfall of flowers on a fence or tree is just spectacular. (I grew them over the front yard fence one year. Had more green beans than we could eat and the wall of flowers from one plant was spectacular. 10 feet each side and 4 foot or 5 high fence covered in green leaves and scarlet flowers. The “Painted Lady” runner bean form has fowers that are half white and half red (and with a white seed that works better in some recipes). I’ve got another runner bean with all white flowers. At any rate, I just love large vining things, and these are certainly that!

    Ah, but the sun is shining and there is a soft breeze at the window… the garden is calling me and I must answer…

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    I’ve added a picture from roughly 24 hours after the first set.

    That bean can sure grow fast! The Red Kuri squash too!

    I noticed that the wiki had these as a “vulgaris” which just goes to show how accurate the wiki can be ;-)

    From under “white beans” it said:

    Other white beans include Cannellini, a fairly popular variety in Central and Southern Italy which is related to the kidney bean and like the kidney bean has higher levels of the toxin lectin (Phytohaemagglutinin). Two notable Greek types of giant white beans exist, the gígantes (Greek: γίγαντες, “giants”) and the eléfantes (ελέφαντες, “elephants”), which are more than twice as big as regular beans, taste slightly sweeter, and are favored for baking. They are produced in a specific part of northern Greece (protected label), but can be found throughout the country.

    Cannellini are interesting beans that even as dry beans continue to have a ‘green bean’ flavor. They are definitely “vulgaris”. But as can be seen by the photos, the Greek Giant is not…

  6. R. de Haan says:

    Thank for the additional info E. M., it’s much appreciated.

  7. P.G. Sharrow says:

    @Jason Calley; Thank you for the Ranchogordo link. I spent all evening examining that site. Beans and chilies are of interest to me as garden crops and food.

    Just finished planting soybeans for edamame and sprouting.
    Maybe I’ll get the kitchen garden cleaned up and early planting finished before the main plantings are due. ;-) pg

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    @P.G.Sharrow & Jason Calley:

    I have to second the vote for Rancogordo. They will be about an hour north of me (on a good day ;-)

    They have similar taste in selections to what I’ve chosen. I’ve already got about 1/2 the varieties of beans and grains they list, yet they have some I’ve never heard of. Like that violet runner bean… I’d thought of selecting Scarlet Runners to eventually develope exactly that seed coloration but decided it would take too long! Now I see I can just buy it. Also I’ve got a red Amaranth rather like the one they featured. It’s very striking in the garden.

    I, too, tend to have an extraordinary fondness for beans in the garden. On my “someday” list is the Blue Capuciner pea too. A pea with a blue / purple pod…

    Having them in colors makes it a whole lot easier to find them “these days” ;-)

  9. Abdo Soliman says:

    mr. Smith I like your empirical approach

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