Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Bean Counter's Paradise

  Oh, the bean counters in my life!  They are seemingly everywhere.  This year there was plenty for them to count though.  2016 was one of, if not the best, bean year of all time for us.  Everything from favas to snap green beans to dried beans produced.  If it was a legume, it performed wonderfully.
  Beans of all types are staples for us here.  The plants require minimal care and fertilizer is not necessary.  In fact, they are actually good for the soil.  All you need to do after sowing is harvest them when they are ready.  There are myriad types and varieties to choose from but if you're like me, you find a few that you like and you stick with them.  We grow favas, Chinese long beans, Pole and bush beans, both French filet and standard, fresh shelling beans and dried beans.
  I've always grown green beans, ever since I was a little boy.  Who hasn't?  Even the most casual gardener who catches that springtime gardening bug has laid in a row or two of beans to savor later in the summer.  Nothing says summer like some steamed fresh green beans with butter and a touch of summer savory and salt.  However sooner or later, as your love for gardening grows, your horizon expands and you try new types.  Sometimes, just to see if you can grow them.  I discovered the magic of fava beans many years ago and wouldn't even consider not growing them now.  It was one of the most pleasant finds I think I've ever had in the garden.  In my opinion they are the king of the bean world.  If you have never tried them you owe it to yourself to expose yourself to this treat.  Like anything that is precious, there is a price to pay.  Prepping them is a bit of a chore but the effort is rewarded in one of the nicest
taste experiences of the summer garden.

   Chinese long beans were tried with a specific purpose in mind.  Thai Green Beans with Pork and Chiles.  To make it authentically, you should use long beans.  Long beans are best fried as opposed to steamed or boiled.  They are a long season crop that likes heat and long days.  Not something we are known for here in Northern Minnesota.  My first attempts at growing them produced mixed results.  A couple of years ago, I switched the location in the garden and I've had good crops every year since.


  2015 was the year I decided to try to conquer dried beans.  I had a hunch I could be successful even though they too benefit from a long season.  I chose an easy to grow variety called 'Good Mother Stallard'.  I got a crop and decided to try some other varieties this past year.  We do not live in a place that is ideal for dried beans.  Dried anything, for that matter but the experiment worked out well and I got a crop from each of the varieties I tried.  'Tiger's Eye', 'Peregion', 'Cannellini' and the aforementioned 'Good Mother Stallard' are the varieties I tried.  The 'Cannellini' beans were the big question mark as they are a 100 day bean.  Oddly enough, they performed the best and were the easiest to handle and process.  Our short season and cool, damp autumns are not conducive to finishing dried bans.  This year I had to harvest before they were completely ready but was able to finish drying them indoors.

'Tiger's Eye'
'Good Mother Stallard'



2016 dried bean harvest

It's always good to have success whenever you are trying something new.  It keeps you energized.  Having beans available of varying kinds throughout the year also keeps you energized.  They are all easy to grow and as you can see, there is a lot more to beans than just green beans.  If you want to broaden your horizon, try some of these more unusual types.  I will try these dried bean varieties again next year and I may even add one to the mix but for now, I'm thinking of the dishes I will use these guys in.  Bean soup?  Frijoles? Baked Beans?  I have never tried making Cassoulet........ Hmmmmm.

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