Dried beans may be the Rodney Dangerfields of the culinary world, but in our garden they’ve been a source of great fascination.
This year, my husband, Kevin, and I planted a dozen varieties, and each provided an education.
Our roof-line experiment at the back of the house is a case in point. The two varieties farthest from the neighborhood woodchuck’s enclave fared the best. The red calypso and good mother Stollard vines twined 15-20 feet all the way to the peak, producing clusters of as many as four pods every few inches.
The Hidatsa shield figure and black Valentine suffered from predation, but still managed to each produce nearly a quart of beans — from just 14 plants!
With the black Valentine, I was duped yet again by improper seed packet labeling. The alleged pole bean is, in actuality, a bush bean. So needless to say, it didn’t take advantage of the 15-foot support strands we created after Kevin attached screw-eyes under the eaves. But its long pods each yielded nearly 10 of the shiniest, blackest beans I’ve ever seen.
Most of the time, bush vs. pole label discrepancy has gone in the opposite direction. So, my new golden rule is to provide climbing support for every new variety — regardless of how its growth habit is described.
This year’s wet conditions did deepen my appreciation for pole beans. By hanging so far off the ground, the pods caught available breezes and stayed mildew-free until harvest.
Once they were dried, I plucked each one within reach with ease. I especially enjoyed being able to stand on the back porch in my slippers while filling a basket. It was a surreal and oddly satisfying moment — a little bit Heidi of the Alps, a little bit Laura Ingalls.
Harvesting the pods hanging high above my head proved trickier. With my own feet planted firmly on the ground, Kevin crawled onto the roof and cut the strings before lowering them to me. Several pods burst open after flopping onto the woodpile stacked in the lee of the vines, but most landed intact and we gathered the wayward souls as best we could. I figure those that rolled away will surprise us after germinating in hard-to-reach places next spring.
The other beans we grew — Mayflower, appaloosa, Jacob’s cattle, pinto, kidney, Hutterite, kabouli black garbanzo, koronis purple, California black-eyed pea, gray-speckled palapye cowpea — each taught us lessons that I’m eager to test in 2014.
A whole body of knowledge awaits.
What's not to respect?