On Thursday, having not been out in the garden much for a couple of days (due to the bad weather), I picked over my row of beans very thoroughly - much more thoroughly than before, evidently. The beanpoles are 9 feet tall, and allowing for about one foot being underground, that still makes them tall, and sometimes it is tempting to just pick the easily-accessible beans. This time I stood on the wooden edge of the raised bed and had a really good search amongst the uppermost foliage. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), I found quite a lot of very mature pods up there:
Overall, my efforts yielded 1.25kgs of pods, which is probably enough for about four or five 2-person servings. Because of this (and the fact that we already had a big bag of them in the fridge), I felt justified in sorting them into two piles - Good ones and "Over-mature" ones:
Over-mature Runner Beans are nasty. They are really tough and stringy, and the inner linings of the pods are like fibrous plastic! At this stage, the only thing worth doing is to dry the pods and use the actual beans inside, rather than the pods themselves. In my next photo you can see how big and swollen some of the pods are, with each individual bean's shape visible.
So, the over-mature pods have gone into the airing-cupboard to dry out, while the Good pods have been kept for eating fresh. Many of these pods are very pale, because they have been lurking in the foliage and hidden from the light. I think this is quite a good thing - it's like blanching endives to make them sweeter and more tender!
You might be wondering why I didn't just leave the over-mature pods on the plants. Well, the reason is that if you leave them, the plant will slow down or cease production of pods, thinking its job is done, whereas if you pick them it will keep on producing more pods in an attempt to "secure the succession" by setting viable seed.