When we went to Paris a few years ago I found a little shop in the street where our hotel was. It sold a huge variety of things – all edible, ranging from chocolates, oils, dried herbs, spices – and dried beans.

There was a jar of large white beans (I didn’t know them then) that looked very interesting. After a chat with the guy there I bought a few, about 100g, also because he said that all his herbs and dried beans were organically grown.

Next spring I tried a few on a wet kitchen towel, just to see if they would sprout – and they did! I planted them and they grew with a vengeance! I managed to find out more about them – they have to be harvested when the pods are quite dry and brown. I waited for that – the harvest was fantastic, these plants are really prolific.

After getting the pods home I shelled them and spread them on some newspapers in the dining room, to get the beans completely dry. After that I stored them in large jars, with a little silica sachet in each, to absorb the moisture (the kind you find in a box of shoes or inside a new handbag when first buying them)

The beans usually last the whole winter, I use them in stews, add them to soups or use them in recipes that ask for red kidney beans. They’re delicious.

Every year I save some beans to start them again, I don’t buy any, my last year’s harvest gives me enough to continue.

This is what I did today – I got some of the beans, 16 cut-up pieces of the middle of a roll of wrapping paper, some potting compost and I’m ready for a new lot of tasty beans. I had to remind myself not to grow too many – made that mistake last year and they created a jungle! They climb very well, the secret was to pinch out the growing tip when the plant reached the top of the cane wigwam, that way they just concentrate on producing the pods.

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