What began as a light-hearted staff competition to grow the longest runner bean at a Suffolk seed company, eventually won by Ben Roden with a pod measuring 47.2cm, took a nasty turn when pods with winning potential were mysteriously taken, snapped in half and discovered in a nearby bramble thicket. Staff at Mr Fothergill's were invited to enter a competition to see who could grow the longest pod of its new and exclusive runner bean Guinness Record, heralding 2017 being nominated throughout Europe as the 'Year of the Bean'.
There was great interest when the competition was announced, and 11 entrants were chosen at random. Each was given five plants and a 'wigwam' of bamboo canes up which to grow them on the company's Kentford, Newmarket, trial ground. From then on it was up to each entrant how they fed, watered and cared for their plants.
By early September the general length of growers' pods was encouraging, with some already reaching 42-45cm. Matters turned sour, however, when one Monday afternoon some of the most promising pods were discovered snapped in half and discarded in brambles bordering the trial ground.
Investigations ensued, precautions were taken for the rest of the growing season, and while there was no more villainy, the perpetrator remains unknown and at large. When the pods were measured on 30 September 2016, Ben's 47.2cm pod of Guinness Record beat a 46.5cm specimen grown by Colin Phillips into second place. Pim Dickson gained third place with a pod of 45cm.
Runner bean Guinness Record consistently produces very long, exhibition-quality pods on vigorous, red-flowered plants which are resistant to all bean viruses. It is available only from Mr Fothergill's for the 2017 season.