Green beans, also known as French beans, are arguably the most famous crispy pod type of beans. Go through market stalls in Nakasero and Owino and you will get the impression that they are the frequently sold beans based on their dominance in the vendors’ cabins.
A swift survey by Seeds of Gold early morning of Saturday last week revealed that they cost slightly lower than the domestic beans; at Shs1,000, you could get a pile of them, worth a meal of two to three people.
Charles Wasajja, 55, a resident of Lugi Kona, Wakiso District is a horticulture farmer who for the last 30 years has supplied French beans to vendors in Nakasero and Owino market. “When I joined farming, my interest was in growing domestic beans and cabbage,” he recalls. His journey to venturing into growing French beans came five years later when clients expressed vehement need for the product given the skyrocketing demand from the consumers at the time. “I decided to give it a try,” says the cheerful and charming old man, reminiscing: “In the early 1980s Nakasero market was a shopping place for mainly the Indians.
That is when the market for French beans blossomed most. They were on high demand.” Lured by the lucrativeness of the business of the product, Wasajja used his two-acre land to grow French beans whose first harvest came in 1989. Wasajja says his first yields were not good enough, but he applied fertilisers to help boost their growth. Years later, he says different seed varieties were introduced on the market.
Types of French beans
“From the time new French bean seeds were introduced the quality improved and the sales on the local market increased as well,” Wasajja reveals explaining that in 2008 the two French bean types introduced on the market were from Denmark.
The dwarf French beans maxi seeds and the dwarf French bean Stanley seeds. However, the most preferred is the Stanley type.
He notes that this type produces masses of long, straight pods of about 14 centimetres. This type bears white flowers and its green pods have white seeds as well. Unlike the Stanley type whose pods are below the leaves, he says the maxi type pods are held above the leaves. Wasajja says other than the two famous types; there are other types of French bean seeds on the market. He notes that these are from countries such as France, South Africa, and Netherlands.
“Some of these French beans appear in different colours such as purple and yellow, but such are common in Kenya,” says Wasajja.
French bean seeds are sowed in rows, with a space of about 30.5 centimetres between plants. Wasajja says French beans thrive best in fertile, well drained soils.
However, too much water or rainfall affects the growth of French beans. Wasajja says during the dry season, farmers are advised to water the beans, especially at the time of flowering.
“Due to the changing seasons, farmers growing vegetables are now opting for water-logged areas. In this case, if you are growing French beans in such an area, during the rainy season you are advised to dig small gutters through which excess water can run. However, when the season is dry, you can always block them,” he advises.
“The first weeding should be done two to three weeks after sowing. When you let the weeds grow they affect the proper growth of the French beans.” Wasajja says this can again be done after two weeks. However, care should be taken to avoid damaging the small roots, especially during the first weeding.
Spraying the pests
Flies, leafhoppers and aphids are some of the pests that attack French beans. Aphids suck liquid from the stems and leaves. Aphids also transmit disease from one French bean plant to another causing stunting to leaves and stems.
Steven Olea an agronomist at Bukoola Chemicals says after one week of sowing you are required to apply dudu cypher. This helps you to prevent pests and diseases which are likely to attack the French beans at an early stage.
“In order to boost the growth of French beans you are required to add farmyard manure or apply super green (100 per cent natural organic composted mixture of sawdust and chicken manure for superior mulching) to the plants. When they are about to flower mix dudu cypher, super green, Indofil and spray,” Olea explains.
“When the rains are heavy expect an increase in the number of pests attacking the vegetable.” He says after French beans have flowered, you can withdraw super green and dudu cypher replacing them with dudu Acelamactine and agrigold. Agrigold encourages more flowering. At the onset of pods you can use Kara.
Wasajja says picking pods begins at six to eight weeks after sowing. Depending on the type, the harvest continues for about four months.
“The pods are carefully picked not pulled from the plants and should have the stalk attached to them. When the stalk remains attached to each of the French beans, it prevents them from rotting and withering,” Wasajja reveals. He notes that regular picking of the pods encourages the plant to produce more pods.
Marketing and exports standards
Wasajja says French beans have a constant demand in farmer markets such as Nakasero, Owino and supermarkets.
Between June, July and August demand is high. A sack of French beans can cost up to Shs400,000.
He says the same happens during the months of January, February and March. However, in October and November when the market is flooded, a sack can cost as low as Shs30,000. A few framers also try to export French beans, but the fact that they are perishable goods that need to be stored in refrigerator, at times French beans go bad before reaching the export market.
James Kanyije of KK foods, an export company of agricultural products, says French beans are highly demanded at the international market, especially at the European Union market.