Saturday, May 26, 2012

This Year's Beans

Earlier this year, I mentioned my goal to grow enough dry beans to last us through the year. I'm also a big fan of sweet snap beans, so I want plenty of snaps to eat fresh and freeze as well. (E, on the other hand, hates the buggers and refuses to touch a green bean. However, dry beans make him very happy. I do believe the man is allergic to the color green.) As is probably clear by now, I'm also in love with growing historic or unusual varieties. I want my garden to be as mixed up as I am. 

I grow beans up trellis columns I build from concrete reinforcement wire, and I try to stagger planting and varieties so I have beans coming in for months. This year, I have some perennial favorites and some new-to-me varieties, certainly more beans than I've ever grown. I don't know if I will make my self-set dry bean goal, but I know I'm going to enjoy the process of growing these lovelies.

This is a mighty seedling of a Hidatsa Shield Figure pole bean. Hidatsa Shields are listed on the Ark of Taste; they're a dry bean that are supposed to make a fantastic soup bean. I received my seeds through Rancho Gordo, where I'm part of their "Bean Buddies" program, in which home gardeners test some of their heirloom varieties in non-commercial conditions. I just planted Hidatsa Shield Figure last week, a little late for our climate, where the heat from the height of summer may slow it down.

 
The two pictures above are Blue Shackamaxon, a Native American heirloom from the Philadelphia area. This is my first year growing them. The beans are supposedly navy blue when shelled, drying further to black, and are good in recipes that call for black beans. In the  top picture, you can see the small mesh bags I use to protect flowers from cross-pollination. I'll save seed from those "pure" flowers so that I can maintain this seed without risk of crossing. I received this seed from a fellow Seed Savers member.
Tarahumara Dark Purple is a Native American heirloom from the Tarahumara peoples of northern Mexico. It grows very vigorously in our sandy, alkaline soil and sets copious pods all along its half-runner vines. The small green beans are tasty, but I grow them mainly for their firm, dark purple dry beans that have a distinct wine-y sweetness and are great in dishes where you'd like a bean to keep its shape. I ordered this seed three years ago from Native Seed Search and have grown it ever since.
It's my second year growing Goldmarie, a large, flat, golden, super-sweet Romano-type bean, and I am excited to have it in my garden again. The entire plant seems to have a bit of a golden flush, and the beans are wonderful, never toughening with age. I ordered this seed last year from a fellow Seed Saver member, Will Bonsall, to be exact.
This pretty, painted number is Flagg (aka Skunk or Chester) bean. The beans are large and black and white, really lovely, and are supposed to make a yummy, quick-cooking dry bean. It is my first year growing Flagg. I received it from another Seed Savers member.
This is Jeminez, a Romano type with a rosy pod. I ordered this also through Seed Savers from Will Bonsall, who said of it "I've never seen a more food-giving plant." I can already see it setting all sorts of baby beans on every flower cluster. The snap beans are supposedly sweet, meaty, and tender, and if the plant gets overwhelming, apparently the shellies of this variety are great as well. It is my first year growing Jeminez.
Oh Blue Coco, you're such a beauty, your whole vine flushed purple. I love this bean, an 18th Century French heirloom, and grow it every year. The slightly flattened dark purple pods are my favorite tasting beans, and they freeze beautifully when blanched. The dry beans (if you get overwhelmed with snaps) make tasty soups. I originally purchased this seed from Fedco Seeds.
Last week, I started planting my hot weather beans. Here is Red Noodle Yardlong, a favorite in my yard; I also planted Thai Purple Yardlong. At this point, the seedlings look identical. I've grown Red Noodle for three years and loved it each year, especially since once the deep heat comes, this baby takes off. They're delicious dry fried with chile and garlic. This year is the first for Thai Purple. I purchased both varieties from Baker Creek.
And finally, for the first time in my life, I'm trying my hand at limas. I planted these a few days ago. They're Lynch Collection Butterbean, an unusually multi-colored and multi-patterned heirloom that, according to my source (a Seed Savers member) deals well with heat and keeps producing small, good tasting beans.

I took each of these pictures this morning to give an clear illustration of what is happening in the bean bed right now. But even now, a few hours later, more flowers have opened, more butterbeans have arisen, and more tender vines have twisted. That's what happens in a bed of beans: growth and change and more growth, so fast it seems like you can see it happening in front of you.

6 comments:

Dave said...

That looks like a great assortment of beans you are growing. If I can expand my garden I would love to plant more dry beans. Perhaps next year! This year I have some Borlotto beans growing - a pole variety. And I love the Red Noodle yardlong beans. They love our hot and humid summers.

Stefaneener said...

I'll have to keep track of this for some good ideas for the future. I'm on the loving dry/not loving green end too and I would love some good Christmas Limas. Some day.

elizabeth said...

How is the goldmarie for blanching and freezing? I'm growing them this year. Can you explain the trellis columns you grow beans on? What shape are they, how big and how many plants per column? Maybe you have another picture that shows the whole structure? I'm looking for more ideas on growing the pole beans, I'm growing some up a vertical trellis with nylon netting and I was going to try and squeeze some more in the garden by just growing them up wooden stakes with strings.

elizabeth said...

How are the Goldmarie for blanching/freezing? I planted some a couple weeks ago. I'm actually growing beans for the first time here in Montana and they're in a hoophouse.

Could you explain your trellis columns? What shape are they, how big and how many plants per. Maybe you have a photo of the whole structure?

I'm growing pole beans up a vertical trellis with nylon netting and am also going to try to find a spot for and maybe grow them up wooden stakes with strings.

Christina said...

Hi Elizabeth! I haven't tried blanching and freezing Goldmarie. Last year I just grew a couple vines, not even enough for a seed crop. They were a test to see if I liked them, and I certainly did. I ate all of them fresh. My trellises are 8 feet tall. They are six feet of concrete reinforcement wire (6 inch squares) bent into a cylinder. I have about eight vines on each column. I will try to take a picture and post it soon. Thank you for stopping by, and I hope to see you around here again soon!

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