Charles Nevin: The Third Leader

Vegetative state
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The Independent Online

And they have provided a snappy name: the weanie beanie. Novelty-seeking vegetable fanciers will welcome this addition to a growing movement towards smaller-sized, sweeter-tasting produce; as will fastidious eaters plagued, and possibly plaqued, by insinuating interdental fibres of the lengthier bean; I'm just happy to greet the reappearance of a well-loved and hardy annual.

Actually, the runner bean is, in fact, a perennial. You might not be aware, either, that, in common with hops and honeysuckle, but unlike Chinese wisteria, it twines in a clockwise direction. And it is the fastest vegetable in the garden.

Runner bean. Fastest vegetable. If you want better jokes, try It's Not A Runner Bean by our Mark Steel. The title is based on a heckle: if you want to find out more, buy the book. I can tell you, though, that humming birds like the flowers, and that dreaming of beans is not a good portent.

In the interests of balance, I should point out that the weanie beanie could be bad news for toothpick manufacturers and summer fetes, which rely on the longest runner bean almost as much as the strangest shaped vegetable. My digging has been unable to turn up a world record, but I note that Mr Bob Cowley took the palm at last year's Potten End Allotments Association show with an effort measuring 20 and three-quarter inches. You, of course, may know better. Letters to the Editor, please!