Asparagus beans, bush beans, pole beans, bush shell beans, pole shell beans, lima beans, lentils, fava beans, runner beans, soybeans or edame, oh my, the choices there are. But wait, it isn’t me which chooses. It’s our weather that decides.
Nestled up against the mountains, the towering peaks abbreviate the sunset, snatching the sun from the sky. Summer nights are long, cool (usually in the 50’s), and coupled with our abbreviate seasons, limits our bean variety choices greatly. I’ve placed a narrow selection before Mother Nature for her choosing. Three challenging factors for any bean is:
- Cool Soil
- Short Days
- and Fleeting Season.
I’ve found when perusing the seed catalogues that short days are important but even more so is does well in cool soils. A slightly longer time to maturation wins over a shorter one if it does well in chilly ground. Lastly but super important is that the bean varieties that go into my garden
- Mature to dried bean stage.
It lowers the cost since you can produce your own seed. Seed that over the years becomes more and more tailored to your personal garden simply because you pick the ones that do best.
With fresh stringless beans I have one more thing I look for,
- Heavy Harvests that lasts until frost.
That is why Blue Lake beans are not grown anymore in my garden. Great for commercial use as you get a small picking, then 2 or 3 more of heavy yields and then they peter out. Nice if you want it all at once but not nice if you want your harvest to be extended. I get far more from my Contender beans and can eat fresh for a longer period of time. They put on large pickings until heavy frost. I plant them thick for fresh green beans as this encourages them to stay at the fresh picking stage. For seed, I don’t sneak a picking as they need every day possible to reach dried bean stage so those rows are designated strictly for seed. I plant my seed rows thinner for better air flow and light.
I’m thinking of trying Provider in 2020 as one should always be testing out new varieties. You never know if you might find something better. Besides, it is best to not have all your eggs in one basket. This is the reason for the Irish potato famine because they had just one or two high yield potato varieties in their gardens and both were vulnerable to the same disease wiping out the harvest more than once.
It isn’t necessary to grow all the varieties every year. Instead after I figure out what varieties I should grow, I will rotate from year to year which ones are in the garden and save seed. That way I have the variety for the inevitable possibility of crop failure.
The purple beans which are touted to do so well in cool soils have bombed the few times I’ve tried them so you just never know for sure until you try. For a wax bean you just can’t beat my grandfather’s Kinghorn Wax. You need a bigger and bigger bowl as they come on heavier and heavier as the season goes on. I’ve only grown it a couple times and not here but this year I’m putting them in and saving seed if Mother Nature is willing. My grandfather’s stomping grounds is just over the mountain from me so I have high hopes.
I’ve tested 12 different dried bean varieties. To get a bean to mature to the dried stage is no easy feat. Ireland Creek, has little foliage making it quite dependable but the yield is low. The buttery taste and reliability makes them worthwhile to grow for now. Jacob’s Cattle stay firm when cooked replacing Kidney beans that really struggle here but the harvests have not been consistent. Between it and Tongue of Fire and Kenearly it is a toss up. Kenearly I thought would be my go to bean but the last two harvests haven’t been as good. I’ve grown the beans a bit differently each year and this year will be no different. I’m going to plant a bit thinner and rows further apart for better light and air coverage.
No wowzers on any of them but I grew Vermont Cranberry for the first time and it was really impressive. Lots of dried, shell stage, and fresh beans. They are stringy to eat at the fresh stage but at this stage dried and powdered gives them many possibilities in the kitchen. The shell bean stage beans I froze some and canned even more. The grandkids LOVE a bean dip concoction I make and canned beans makes it a fast meal.
Some beans are good at all three stages. Supposedly Dragon’s Tongue is. They are my kid’s favorite eaten raw and cooked is pretty good too. Canned fresh they turn a pale, not so appealing appearance but taste just fine. I’ve used them at shell stage but dried, well, never in the four years I tried did I get dried. They are off the list and I’m sad because they would have been perfect, good at all stages. Even though I’ve tried a large number of dried beans varieties, there is more to learn and try. I’ve chosen yet another one I want to give a chance but first I’m narrowing down the ones I have now.
- Figure out what it is that you need.
- How many varieties are needed?
- What bean types will work best for you.
Hopefully you aren’t as limited as we are.