My Big Basket Of Beautiful Borlotti And A Few Shades Of Africa


I cannot tell you how excited I get about the prospect of the late summer borlotti harvest. I grow the climbing version, also called Firetongue or Lingua di Fuoco – you can see why – and just now the leaves are falling from the stems and leaving clusters of hot pink pods to light up my allotment plot.

I harvested the first row last week, prompted by the sudden appearance of a fungal looking disorder on some of the pods. Usually I let them dry on the sticks, but the ones in the header were quickly blanched and put in the freezer. This anyway means they are much quicker to cook – favourites in chilli, re-fried beans and bean soup.

I’ve been keeping my eye on the second row. They are at the other end of the plot, and seem to be drying nicely with no signs of infection. I showed the diseased pods to the Resident Plant Pathologist chez Farrell i.e. Dr. Graham, but all he said was, ‘It’s probably due to the funny weather.’ Which is a bit like going to the G.P.’s surgery with an ailment and being told: ‘there’s a lot of it about.’ Ah well. As long as I have lots of pods to shell I’m happy. Until you open them you never know quite what colour the beans will be. I’m easily pleased. When all is said and done, they are SO very beautiful.

The basket is a favourite too – made by the Tongabezi people of southern Zambia (they who were forcibly displaced from their ancestral Zambezi Valley lands by the British in the 1950s so Lake Kariba and the hydro-electricity dam – between what was then Northern and Southern Rhodesia – could be constructed.) I bought it long ago in the museum shop in Livingstone, near Victoria Falls. The beans are also grown in Africa where they are called Rose Coco, and sold by farm mamas who measure out the quantities in old (scrubbed) jam tins at their roadside market stalls.

It’s interesting the apparently unrelated resonances that, well, resonate down one’s personal time-line on a Monday morning here on Wenlock Edge.


copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

In the Pink #17

39 thoughts on “My Big Basket Of Beautiful Borlotti And A Few Shades Of Africa

  1. The borlotti beans look beautiful. Do they taste when cooked like the beans from northern climes? In the valley of the Arrow Lakes where I live people have also been forced to abandon their homes in the 1960’s for the building of a dam.

    1. They don’t have a strong flavour. Butter beans are the nearest I can think of. A bit more taste than haricot beans. As to making way for dams, that seems to have happened all over. I always find it a disturbing thought, having one’s village and familiar landscape forever submerged.

    1. I do a sort of pistou thing, but make a thickish soup of the borlotti (onions, garlic, herbs, stock), sometimes with added chopped veg later, and serve with pistou-pesto on top.

      1. 🙂 I’ll try. But I seem to have black fingers at the moment. I noticed yesterday that two recently healthy rosemary bushes are dead and I have not idea what has killed them 😦

      2. Take heart. Rosemary does that. I’ve had that happen so many times. You have to keep doing heel cuttings which root quite easily, except I forget to do it until the plant has died.

      3. Thanks Tish. That’s good to know. I’ve never had it happen before. I did take a bunch of cuttings a while ago which all seem to have flourished. Last week I was wondering what to do with them all!!

  2. Gorgeous! … I let our beans dry on the vine too … mostly because I forget to harvest them regularly. 🙂 … sometimes the saner option is to surrender to the inevitable. 😀

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