Two beans are grown for beauty, the Hyacinth Bean, edible with precautions, and the Scarlet Runner Bean, also edible.

It’s interesting that these two beans are so unlike the rest of the bean world yet so much alike. Both trail, that is, love to climb. They are showy, one towards purple the other red. They are perennials though are treated as annuals, and have starchy, edible roots. Their young leaves are eaten as well as their beans. Like the Hyacinth Bean the Scarlet Runner Bean also has tasty edible flowers. For the Hyacinth Bean go here.

Botanically in Dead Latin the Scarlet Runner Bean is Phaseolus coccineus (fay-see-OH-lus koh-SIN-ee-us.) That’s the bastardization of two living Greek words that mean “Red Bean” though the seeds are multi-colored. (In Greek it’s:  fah-SO-lee  KOH-kee-no.) The Scarlet Runner Bean has also been called the Oregon Lima Bean, Aycoctl by the Aztecs, and Ayocote by the Spanish. It’s native to Central America and has escaped cultivation in many areas. This bean is still on the home kitchen menu in its original range but the rest of the world grows it as an ornamental. Lots of folks also use it as a nectar attraction for hummingbirds and butterflies. Historically, Scarlet Runner Bean was in English and early American gardens by the 1600s.

Edible Bean-flavored Flowers

There are some dozen and a half cultivars now. (Cultivars are made by man, varieties are made by nature.) The Dutch Phaseolus coccineus v. alba has white flowers. The “Butler” is stringless, “Painted Lady” has red and white flowers, the “Kelvedon Wonder” is an early variety with long pods, “Sunset” has pink flowers, and the “Scarlet Emperor” …has scarlet flowers. Under right conditions the Scarlet Runner Bean is the most productive of all the planted beans.

Scarlet Runner Beans produce many-color seeds

Like most beans the Scarlet Runner Bean contains small amounts of the lectin phytohaemagglutinin (figh-toe-hee-mah-GLUE-tin-inn.) The highest amount is in uncooked red kidney beans. It’s toxic in large amounts which is why kidney beans are always long-cooked. As few as five raw kidney beans can cause symptoms such as losing fluids and feeling lousy for four or five hours. While there are many people who report they eat Scarlet Runner Beans seeds raw it is a good practice to cook them. The young pods before beans truly develop are eaten raw.

I have planted both to climb guy wires near local telephone poles. It’s a win win win as they say. The ugly wire is covered with an attractive vine and blossom, I get to harvest the bean without having to give up any space or create a trellis, and the birds and bees are happy.

 Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile: Scarlet Runner Bean

IDENTIFICATION: Phaseolus coccineus: Quick-growing vines, typical bean three-leaflet, dark green with purple tinged veins underneath, to 15 feet long/tall, red flowers borne in clusters like sweet peas, slender pods to a foot long. Seeds lima bean shape, color varies from shining black to violet-black mottled with deep red.

TIME OF YEAR: All year in warm climates, seasonally in temperate summer and fall

ENVIRONMENT: Fertile soil, adequate moisture, full sun, preferably something to climb on or it will ball up on the ground. Does better in moderate climates than either very hot or very cold.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Young tender pods sparingly raw. Usually they are boiled, steamed, sauteed, baked, French-cut (in strips) before cooking; immature seeds used like shelled beans, read cooked; ripe, dried seeds used like dry kidney or Lima beans, long cooked; flowers have a bean-like flavor and are used in salads. Young leaves used as a pot herb, starchy root cooked. It is good food for cattle as well.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 awsome person October 20, 2012 at 21:48

thanks i have a project to do and this helps me know more

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2 vinny January 5, 2013 at 13:22

any suggestions for keeping voles and chipmunks from eating the roots and stems? have planted 3 years in a row in diffrent locations always with the same end result…rodent food

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3 Green Deane January 6, 2013 at 20:39

Eat the little munchers….

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4 AdAstra47 February 15, 2013 at 08:49

Try using a raised bed. I plant mine in a raised bed about 16″ high, in a traditional Native American “three sisters” configuration with Jerusalem artichokes that act as a trellis for them, and squash growing on the ground underneath. Critters don’t seem to bother them.
However, we also have quite a few feral cats around so that may be another reason the rodents don’t get a chance to make trouble… So you could try spraying the bed with predator pheromones to scare the little critters away, that might help.

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5 Green Deane February 15, 2013 at 11:37

Cats don’t like to walk on chicken wire. Sometimes just laying some down on the ground around the bed works well.

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6 Regan February 7, 2013 at 19:33

I have been eating scarlet beans for months and have not had any poisons that effect me but have had a side effect that has improved my diabetes and neuropathy of my feet and fell great. I can walk allot easyer and control my diabeties better having to use less insulin.

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7 Robyn March 24, 2013 at 23:13

Can you tell me if scarlet run plants are ok to feed to cattle?

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8 anasazirose June 12, 2013 at 23:26

It is good food for cattle as well. Last sentence in article above.

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9 cj April 27, 2013 at 18:25

do they keep coming back every year??

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10 Michael MacLeod September 19, 2013 at 18:41

I have planted them for 6 years in the SF Bay Area and about a quarter of the plants winter over. They look dead, but in early Spring they will put out half a dozen shoots, so each sophomore plant has the yield of six seed starts. None have made it to a third season.

By the way, despite their tropical origin, they yield very well and are quite comfortable in Mediterranean climates, even near the ocean. I love them.

They do get whitefly infestations, but they just go on – two flushes a season, about six weeks into their maturity and then a few months later. If you leave the pods on the vines too long they will get infested with a tiny boring weevil that leaves grainy bits on the bottom of stored seed containers and which will multiply rapidly through a jar of seeds. Leave the seeds out to dry, then freeze overnight to stamp out the weevils. This may cause longer sprouting times the next Spring, but I am not certain that this was due to the freezing.

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11 Christina September 25, 2013 at 13:50

Great information, thank you!

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12 Debbe Mann June 3, 2013 at 13:40

I’m confused! How many can you eat and do they have to be cooked?

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13 EK June 24, 2013 at 12:16

is it ok to plant the scarlett runner beans a few feet away from pole beans?

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14 happyplant August 20, 2013 at 15:22

CAN SOME TELL ME IF I CAN EAT THE YOUNG BEAN PODS LIKE I DO
GREEN AND YELLOW BEANS
PLEASE E MAIL AN ANSWER BECAUSE THEY ABOUT 1” LONG AND WANT TO PICK THEM.
THANK YOU

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15 Michael MacLeod September 19, 2013 at 18:32

Yes, you can eat them. The pods have a scratchy habit that goes away after boiling. They take somewhat longer than other beans, and after the beans set and begin to swell the pods get tough and (to me) inedible. But I may just be insufficently hungry.

Mike

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16 Dick Wild January 22, 2014 at 22:19

Regarding Michael McCleod’s white fly infestation, in our area early immigrants would add Pepperwood leaves to stored dried plant material to combat insect infestation. California Bay Laurel, aka Pepperwood , (Umbellularia california) is an indigenous plant in forested areas of California, so leaves are easily accessible. Native Americans supposedly camped under Pepperwood trees because the trees’ odor worked as a natural insect repellant. Michael, check out Marin or east Alameda counties for Pepperwood trees or San Mateo County, in the westerly hill area.

Dick Wild

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17 lagrasshopper January 27, 2014 at 15:20

The first time I grew scarlet runner beans was last year (2013). The stunning purple bean inside the rough pod were beautiful and delicious. I’m a vegetarian and the big meaty beans were thrown into every recipe I could think of. A favorite was to boil the purple inner beans and use the cooked beans in a Mediterranean style with tomatoes, calamata olives onions… They are delicious and have a wonderful mouth feel. But I would grow them again for the beautiful red flowers dressing up my vege garden alone! I live on the north top of the Olympic Peninsula, Washington.

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18 Ann June 17, 2014 at 23:21

I live on the Florida Panhandle. I like the looks of the scarlet runner beans, and the versatility of their beauty, hummer/butterfly food, and edible seeds. Do you think that they would grow well in our hot, muggy environment?

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19 makahmaiden June 21, 2014 at 04:52

Can you eat the leaves of the runner beans, if so im guessing you would use them in a salad??

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20 Green Deane July 7, 2014 at 16:46

The article says young leaves of the Phaseolus coccineus are boiled and eaten.

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