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Thoughts On Beans

I suspect the number of people who actually care about my bean growing experiences are few, but what the hell. I have grown six bean varieties this year, and you get to hear my reviews!

It hasn't been a great year for beans for me--the weather was too weird, the peas ran late, and then everything got whacked hard with powdery mildew. (High humidity + lack of rain = oh, the mildew you'll grow!) But honestly, that sort of thing happens--we're in a desperately humid climate and mildew is a way of life--so it's a good test of bean sturdiness.

I grow only for dry beans--we're too busy and too deranged to get to green beans on time, so it's just easier to dry, shell, and store. They get watered regularly via soaker hose and grow in soil treated with some form of compost early in the season.

Arikara Yellow -- This is a bush bean, which I didn't know when I planted it, so it grew more or less in the wrong spot and got abused by surrounding plants. Despite that, it produced a fair number of pods per plant, and according to reviews, will tolerate more shade than many beans, so I'm tentatively impressed and may grow again, despite a bias against bush beans. No significant powdery mildew problems, and holding up to our humidity well despite being from Dakota territory, which I gotta assume is a bit drier.

Good Mother Stallard -- Still the champion! Getting significant powdery mildew but still growing vigorously despite it, producing a solid crop of gorgeous purple-and-white marbled beans. It's being hit pretty hard and I'm traveling too much to baby it, so I don't know if I'll get a second flush of pods, but the initial round is at least a couple meals worth of rice-and-beans. Always growing this one.

Ojo De Cabra -- "Eye of the Goat." It's a very pretty bean from northern Mexico, and it's holding up to our humidity very well so far--very vigorous, fairly mildew resistant--but it's not nearly so productive as Stallard. Will probably grow at least once more, to give it a fair shake, since it may flush out better later in the season.

Mayflower -- Bah, humbug. This one was billed as being a staple of the Carolinas, but it's wimpy, not very vigorous, the peas out-competed it (peas! For god's sake, beans! Does this not bring shame to your ancestors?) the mildew nuked it, and while it was productive for being a tiny, spindly, sad little bean, that basically means I got a handful of beans to throw into mixed bean chili. Not impressed, will not grow again.

Rattlesnake Pole -- Productive classic. This one's great in chili and has been largely immune to the powdery mildew going around. It takes humidity like a champ and keeps going FOREVER. This is another one I'll always grow.

Scarlet Runner Bean -- There's a specific way to prep these* and some day we'll get around to it. They hail from Oaxaca. I had to stop growing them up my deck because they kept eating the railing, so I've replaced them with Rattlesnake Poles there. They are currently in a slightly more shady raised bed and are very leafy but not bearing heavily. In full sun, they're amazingly productive and bring in hummingbirds like you wouldn't believe, so they're another always-grow, though I may need to find a new place for them to live.

I'm also growing Cowpeas, "Holstein" but they haven't done anything much yet and are only now starting to get going. I've got four plants going, one of which is stunted, one of which is nearly dead, and two of which are gigantic and lush. We'll see how it goes.

I like growing beans on arches, and may have to get another pair of arches for the garden, which will be a questionable design element but will allow for even more beans. And tomatoes! Tomatoes do great on arches! (Just harvested the first Roma and the first German Johnson. They are delicious.)

*No, they are not poisonous.

oh, the mildew you'll grow!

Oh god, the Dr. Seuss book we never wanted to see!

Thanks for the reviews. I've always grown beans to eat fresh. If you're growing drying beans, do you dry them on the vine or harvest and then dry?

Depends on the bean! Around here, you have to harvest a little earlier than most places because the humidity will turn a significant portion to mold rather than dry. So I usually pull the Stallards off when the pods are bright yellow, and the Rattlesnakes when the pod is going mushy around the hard beans (Rattlesnakes are pretty bad about molding on the vine for me if I don't harvest, I think because the pod is super fleshy.)

Generally, if they've turned solid lemon yellow, you can give it a try. The Mayflowers seem to need a little longer, and I've only harvested a couple of Ojos so far, so I'm still learning. Stallards can even have a little green still on the pod, though the bean won't be as darkly marbled. Having eaten them, though, they still cook up fine, and if the alternative is to lose them entirely, you can go a little early. Stallards are pretty good about NOT molding, though, which is nice.

Beans are awesome. Also tomatoes. Yay diversity!

Romas are the tomatoes you want to be growing the year it rains every day in the month of July. Trust me on this.

If you've never tried dragon's tongue beans, I highly recommend them! They've been my most prolific, are gorgeous, and taste great too :)

I've done them, but do they dry? I only ate them fresh and like I said, we can't really keep up with green beans!

I planted some pole beans this year (from some dried beans in pods) that my niece gave me. She got them from an old Italian woman who apparently brought the originals over from Italy. I have no idea what they're going to turn out like, but they're growing like crazy. Maybe they're magic beans...

So as long as your niece didn't trade the cow for them...

Have you ever grown Dragon's Tongue beans? My friends in Fargo used to grow them and I always liked their purpleness (which disappears when you cook them).


If you have a full-sun place where most stuff sunburns, try planting Anasazi beans there; they're delicious and incredibly hardy. The flavor reminds me of pecans, actually, nutty and just a touch sweet. Cook 'em with bacon or ham and they are freaking amazing..

I, who am no gardener at all, LOVE reading anything about your garden.

And I like looking at seed catalogs.

(OK, I don't usually look at seed catalogs, and have been growing a ginger plant on my windowsill for the last six years, but close enough.)

I would want to double-check this before trying, but I recall scarlet runner soft shoots and flowers also being edible with a sort of pea-ish peppery flavour. Possibly a good way to keep them in check?

Your gardening is not directly relevant to the UK, but I really enjoy reading. And oddly I had never thought of drying beans myself but if I get a good crop this year I shall try. Thanks.

Alas... this depresses me a bit. :)

This year I got all up on myself and decided to do some gardening. My lettuce plants are more like lettuce trees. My spinach did the same. My sweetpeas I was assured were a bush. They're trying to climb. My chives seem more like blades of grass.

And my tomatos. 2 or 3 months of half sun, full sun, extra full sun... lots of water, little water... I don't even know... They've gaiend about 3 or 4 inches since I bought them. One of the two cherry tomato plants gave me one cherry tomato. The regular tomato plants teach have had one tomato grow on them. The side of a cherry tomato.

Perhaps I am not meant to grow plants.

uneko, if this is your first year of gardening the problem is likely to be in your soil.

Here's the text of a pamphlet on Square Foot gardening* I co-wrote for use in schools. I've successfully used it with ages K-5th grade; we got SPECTACULAR results from raised beds filled with a (donated) mixture of 2/3 topsoil and 1/3 composted cow manure. It is astounding how much productivity you can get from a small area of deep, soft, well-prepared soil with plenty of organic matter. Holds water well too.

*Square Foot Gardening is the title of a book by Mel Bartholomew, for whose foundation we wrote the guide, back in the early '90s.

(Deleted comment)
Damn. My possibly hlepy reply to uneko was flagged as spam.

I got the email reply though! :) Thank you for the very helpful link to the square foot gardening pamphlet!

I suspect your'e probably right. There are a lot of factors but I think that the soil definitely played into it. I had a SFG planned but my co-gardener (who you can read about in my other reply) decided it wasn't needed and we ended up using bagged soil. Yep. I think the other issue was drainage. My cogardener said that we'd get out there and poke more holes in the bottoms of out containers, wouldn't be hard with two people. .... and yet she's never available to do that.

Next time I do it my way. I"ll have that link saved for next time! :D

Thank you!

A friend of mine has German Johnsons and loves them. She's been trying to stabilize a mutant with much firmer flesh, but I'm not sure how that's gone.

I know you're talking about plants here, but I have no idea WHAT your'e saying. .... out of context, this is a pretty amazing sentence.

Scarlet runners are local enough to be sold at Native Seeds here in Tucson ... we're reasonably fond of them. My father-in-law has has decent luck growing them in cool-but-sunny northern New Mexico.

I haven't ever grown them, but Ojo de Cabra beans are my favorite pot bean. They make great chili beans, too. :)