So Many Beans

Recently I cooked up the last of the dried beans we harvested last season. A lot of our dry beans went into batches of bean soup but I wanted to cook the black beans, ready to use in other things. I’m wanting to get more into the habit of cooking dried beans and storing them in the freezer to use instead of buying cans of beans. The amount of beans we’ve been growing hasn’t been a lot but it has been increasing. This season I’m more than doubling the amount of bean varieties that we’re growing so there ought to be many beans on the way. Most of the varieties are for use as dried beans.

I learnt how to cook dried beans with some handy tips from this post on Kitchen Treaty. Dried beans are great because you can store them in jars for a very long time. When you’re ready to cook a batch for freezer storage you just soak them in a pot of water overnight, rinse twice, put them back in the pot with fresh water, bring them to the boil and simmer until they’re cooked, which is about 30 minutes or more.

For this session I had Blue Shackamaxon beans and Seulgia beans. I wanted to do them separately so I could compare the taste of the different beans, so I just used two pots. Once cool I put about 2 cups of beans into each plastic ziplock bag (Glad Snap Lock Bag Sandwich size), which is about equivalent to a can of beans. They store nicely in the freezer in a flattened manner, ready for use in meals. I also froze the liquid ‘bean stock’ for use in meals.

I’ve made mince and bean dishes with both now. Although they weren’t used at the same time, I think I like the Blue Shackamaxon beans a little more. They are a nice-tasting black bean. The Selugia beans were still good though.

We’ve got so many new bean varieties to try out this season that only one of these two could made the cut. Aside from tasting good, Blue Shackamaxon’s pros are quick growth and tolerance of slightly cooler temperatures, meaning we can get two successive crops of it if I time it right. But the plants are less vigorous and productive. The pods can be eaten fresh but for what little you’re getting off a plant you might as well let them dry to use as black beans.

Selugia earned a spot in the garden again. Although it took longer to produce and ripen bean pods, it kicked Blue Shackamaxon’s butt in terms of production, had bigger beans and was productive for longer. The bean pods could also be used fresh so that was handy. For what you get from one bean seed, Selugia beat Blue Shackamaxon. That is important when you’re trying to grow as much food as you can, especially when you’re short on space. I’m not permanently kicking Blue Shackamaxon out, it’s just sidelined while I explore other beans.

There will be many more bean comparisons to come. I’m most interested to see how the Apache Red beans do, as a potential replacement for the bush kidney beans, which aren’t particularly productive. Here are the beans we’re growing and why. This is how I’ve classified them for our use based on what I know so far, mostly from Heritage Food Crops Research Trust, where I got the new ones from. I haven’t included anything about using fresh beans from inside the pod (shellout) as we don’t eat them that way. They’re too much like peas for me. We will not speak of peas here.

Climbing Beans – Dry

  • Apache Red
    • Similar to a kidney bean.
  • Fat Goose
    • Creamy bean.
  • Flagg
    • Very productive, vigorous, cooks quickly, use in soups.
  • Good Mother Stallard
    • Very productive, drought tolerant, great flavour (meaty).
  • Hidatsa Shield Figure
    • Highly productive, great flavour.
  • Holy Climbing (Angel Bean)
    • Short cooking time without soaking, great flavour (slightly smokey), looks amazing.
  • Ojo de Cabra (Goat’s Eye)
    • Very productive, great flavour.

Climbing Beans – Dry or Fresh Pods

  • Selugia (Mr Inesons, China Bean)
    • High production, long season, dual-purpose, stringless, grew last season.
  • Duokoboi
    • Dual-purpose, long season, tasty young pods.
  • Genuine Cornfield (Scotia, Striped Creaseback, Rattlesnake)
    • Shade tolerant, heat tolerant, option of growing up corn stalks.
  • Bi-colour Pean (Pea Bean, Abenaki Pean)
    • Great flavour.

Climbing Beans – Fresh Pods

  • Scarlet Runner (stringless)
    • Namesake of our daughter, bright red-orange flowers, long life, high production.
  • Henry’s Climbing Butter
    • Butter bean flavour, large beans, grew last season.
  • Yard Long Red Noodle
    • Pretty purple pods, good for stir-fries, freeze well, grown it for years.

Bush Beans

  • Borlotto (plus my non-isolated, occasional variant Burgundy Borlotto)
  • Cannellino
  • Kidney

So, that’s 17 varieties. Yup. The climbing beans will be grown up wire mesh trellises or strings hanging from our post and pole structures. The bush beans are ones I’ve grown for years but this time I haven’t planned spaces for them, they’ll just be fillers wherever I can stuff them. Climbing beans are where it’s at for better production and using less space.

The Little Fulla is also growing some beans. He really likes shelling dry beans. He chose to grow a yellow cherry tomato in his veggie garden again this season and to start beans from some he saved off his Borlotto plants last season. I had a proud garden mummy moment as I watched him poke the beans that he grew and chose to save into a tray to grow another generation of plants. He helped me sow some of the other beans too but is most interested in his own. His winter vegetables didn’t do as well as they could have since he didn’t keep up with weeding his garden bed, but he did get to eat some broccoli and different coloured carrots.

As The Little Fulla and I have been slowly cleaning up the vegetable gardens we’ve been finding and killing many, many snails and some slugs. Obviously the snails knew I was having a baby and happily set about having their own babies all through winter, all over the place. Some of them have shells about 3cm long. The battle is on. Here’s a horde of snails we rescued the celery from. I’ve got a new phone, which hasn’t learnt my homesteading ways yet, and it auto-corrected that sentence to: Here’s a horde of snails we rescued the elderly from. Ok, the snails aren’t so bad that they’re attacking old people now, but they’re still a problem. The snails, not the elderly.

The snails evicted from the celery fortress and about to get squished by a small child’s boots.

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