A Bounty of Beans

Back in the dark, cold months of December and January, when this year's garden first began to take shape in the form of over-ambitious lists and dozens of sketches, I started to make some of my first selections of the heirloom varieties I wanted to grow this year.  The beans were some of the first to go on the list, but also one of the hardest to narrow down to what I could reasonably fit in the garden.  The varieties are endless, each with their own advantages and beauty.  The process was sometimes agonizing, but mostly fun to dream about the days ahead filled with these gorgeous heirloom beans: 
Hidatsa Shield Figure:  These beautiful dried beans are almost pure white with a caramel-colored "shield" around the "eye" of the bean.  They seem almost monstrous in comparison to the the other beans, so I'm anticipating that they will make a nice meaty addition to some winter soups.  I chose this one primarily because it was known to be grown by Native American Tribes in North Dakota.
I'm growing these pole beans in the west garden, on a bean tower made out of bamboo garden stakes.  This is an easy and inexpensive bean structures you can construct and reconstruct year after year. I just positioned the bamboo stakes in the ground in a circle and gathered them at the top to tie with some garden twine.  It's hard to see, but there is also some wire wrapped around the bean tower to give the beans a little more to grab onto as they start to climb.
Cherokee Trail of Tears: These beans get their name from the story of how they were carried by the Cherokee people from Tennessee to Oklahoma along the Trail of Tears.  They are gorgeous jet black beans with a smooth and shiny surface.  The beans can be harvested both as a snap bean and as a dried bean.  I plan to harvest them mainly as dried beans, but I will definitely be trying a few of them in the snap bean phase as well.
I am growing these beans in my Three Sisters Planting in the east garden.  Regular bush and pole beans are great for seed saving.  Most of these beans are either self-pollinating, or require a shorter "buffer" distance between varieties to avoid cross pollination.  With these beans growing on the other side of the house from my other beans, I will be able to save a few handfuls of beans to plant again next year.
Dragon Tongue: These beans are known to be some of the best snap beans for eating fresh.  The large bean pods are buttery yellow with purple streaks, and in addition to being pretty, they have the reputation of being incredibly sweet and tender.  I am growing two rows of these bush beans in the community garden plot.  This Dutch heirloom is one of the most anticipated harvests in my garden.  Every gardener I have talked to who has grown this variety just raves about it.  

Snap beans can also be easily dried for seed saving.  Simply allow some of your last pods to fully mature and dry on the plants before harvesting the pods (they'll be dry and brittle, on the verge of dropping the beans on their own) and storing the seed in a cool, dry place for next spring.  
Grow It Forward Heirloom Seed Contest

Labels: ,