Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Hill of Beans

Last year, I grew dried beans for the first time. I bought one packet of Maine Yellow Eye beans, and planted them in late May, in three six-foot rows in my garden. (Johnny's has several dried bean varieties available here.) I probably planted them a little too close together, which is pretty typical of my gardening style.

These are a bush bean, so they are pretty easy to grow - the only big issue I have with beans is invasions by the Mexican Bean Beetle. I've talked about these before (Click here and scroll about halfway down to see pictures.) Otherwise, as long as you keep them watered and cultivated, you can just let bush beans grow. You don't have to worry about trellising, and they won't take over the garden.

Dry beans are even easier to manage than fresh beans. You just let the beans grow until they are very ripe, starting to dry out, then pick them. Last September, I picked the ripe beans (already pretty dry on the vines) and put them in a bucket. Then life got in the way, and I forgot the bucket of beans in the garage all winter. Thankfully, our garage is dry and cool, and mostly free of pests, and the beans were still there, untouched, where I left them. I rediscovered them when I went out to do some gardening this spring. So, a couple of weeks back, I shucked them, and put the shells in the compost bin. I found some desiccated bean beetle larvae in a couple of the shells, and a few beans that had been harmed by the larvae - I discarded these.

After picking them all, I had nearly filled a pint jar with dried beans. A packet became a pint (and a pint's a pound the world around) - which will become a hot and yummy pot of baked beans.

Talk about some easy to quantify gardening - with fresh veggies, I know our family eats them day-to-day, and you lose count. When I can, it's somewhat easier to count jars of pickles and salsa. But counting these beans was quite literally cut and dried.

(Do you have a favorite baked bean recipe? Mine is here: Yankee Maple Baked Beans. I usually put in a few pats of butter instead of salt pork, and they are very tasty.)

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