kidney beans

Pinching and Planting

This week the kids were taught how to pinch their plants.  Their tomatoes, to be specific.  (No pinching the others, or slapping that rosemary either.  Kids.)  We pinch our tomatoes to encourage nutrients and water to go where needed—the main stems and branches.  Scraggly, overgrown and unkept tomato plants help no one, least of all the gardener looking for some ruby-red produce.

And it’s simple.  The tiny branch growing in the crux there?  Pinch it—a difficult task if your gloves are ultra thick, so take care, and pinch with precision. 🙂 More

Should You Stake a Bush Bean?


They aren’t climbers like their cousins the pole beans. It shouldn’t be required, right?  Hence the name, bush bean.   

But I have to admit, I find staking my black beans gives them the extra support they need.  Unlike the kidney beans, they have these delicate climbers that are reaching for something.  I don’t know what that “something” is, but they do.  Couldn it be Mother Nature forgot to tell them they’re not climbers? 

Probably not.  However, this is my third season growing black beans — I LOVE black beans — and I’ve found they do better with bamboo stakes set next to their stalk. 

Not only does it give them something to curl around, it helps support the plant beneath the weight of all those glorious pods they produce.  A good thing.  Because strolling out to your garden intent on picking those gorgeous purple pods only to discover your plant “has fallenth over…”   It’s no fun. 

Depressing, really, as it signals your black bean bush (I use the word “bush” lightly) is not producing as well as it could be.  And you want as many black beans as you possibly can produce, because of all my plants, these are the easiest to store.  Which means I can eat black beans for months! 

Another method is to use a trellis for support.  While my kidney beans don’t want to twist their way up a bamboo stake, they do appreciate a little support around their “girth.” 

Like the black beans, these plants become laden with pods and can sag beneath the extra weight.  The trellis below does double duty in the garden.  Not only do I use it for my beans, but I can use it for my Limas, too. 

This way, I’m sure to reap as much bounty as possible from a season’s work.  At least until next spring when the new crop goes in.

And speaking of new crops, how long are these plants supposed to produce?  I have some Hungarian Wax pepper plants leftover from spring (they’re keeping the ground warm until my English peas go in) and they are still sprouting peppers.   Granted, she doesn’t look as lush and beautiful as she once did, but she’s still producing!

Is there a maturity stage where they no longer produce?  Like us, do they find their fertility waning after a while?

Sorry ladies, but it’s true.  We wane.   And if not our sparkling personalities and positive outlooks, at least some of our parts do. 

I wonder:  if I weren’t so busy rotating crops each fall and spring in hopes of achieving organic harmony, would ALL of my plants continually produce?  

I find it curious.  

Hmmm.  Perhaps this calls for an experiment!  I do have those three new rows I could use…

Beans – Easy to Grow, Good for the Heart!

Red beans, black beans, Lima beans, Garbanzo beans (reminds me of Dr. Seuss), boy, do we have beans!  Healthy beans, especially black beans and kidneys.  Add them to soup, chili, or try my recipe for black beans, best served with chicken and yellow rice.  And be prepared to try a variety of recipes, because not only are these good for you, they’re probably one of the easiest plants to grow.  Top of my list in importance.

While growing, you can tell them apart by their blossoms and bush formation.  Black beans have beautiful purple blossoms. 

Kidney beans have white.

Limas also have white flowers, but their growth habit is more bush — less vine — fanning out from the ground in a nice stable “triangle” of sorts.  No need to stake or trellis Lima beans, but a must for kidney and black beans.

Garbanzo beans are wholly different.  They have petite flowers and large oval-shaped pods (the others are long, traditional style pods).  Garbanzo leaves also form small ovals, while the others tend toward the heart-shaped.

Harvesting beans is simple, performed when the pods turn color from green to tan – lavender in the case of black beans.  Coincidence their blossoms are purple?  Normally I would pluck ready pods from the bush, encouraging more growth, but in the case of my kidney beans, I pulled the entire plant from the ground.  They hit a dry patch in the watering schedule (corn was too tall for my sprinkler to reach over). 

Next up, the business of shelling.   When done in batches it’s an easy task, best performed poolside with a glass of ice-cold rosemary lemonade while watching the kids swim.  I’m an avid multi-tasker.  You can allow them to dry in pod (even while still on plant), or shell them at once.  Just pinch the ends, split open the pod, and remove the beans.

Once shelled, set the beans on a plate or shallow dish and allow to dry completely before closing in an air-tight container for storage.  If you don’t give them ample time to dry out, they will become moldy and icky.  Gross, really.  And totally ruined. 

We learned this the hard way last fall.  Very sad day when your entire batch of black beans is lost.   So be sure to let them dry.   Give them a few days and you’ll see them shrink and “seal” themselves with a nice hard coating for dry storage.

Limas are a different story.  For long-term storage, you’ll need to freeze them.  To do this, you have to blanch them first.  Toss them into a pot of boiling water for about two minutes (a minute if they’re small) then immediately submerse them in a bowl of ice water.  After about a minute or so, remove them from the water, pat dry (or set between paper towels) and pop them into a freezer container.  Finito!

Now you have beans to last you through next season’s harvest.  Provided you planted enough.  That calculation is a trick in itself!

To give you an idea, I planted one row of each bean, two plants wide, about 40 feet long.  While it sounds like a lot, it’ll probably yield about 20-30 servings of beans.  I’m approximating, mind you, but it’s within the ball park.  But since my family loves beans, come fall, I already have plans to expand.  Chili, soup, you name it, they’ll eat it!

P.S.  Don’t forget that beans contain lectin phytohaemagglutinin.   It’s a toxic compound, most concentrated in the kidney bean.  When eaten raw, soaked for an insufficient amount of time, or even cooked for long hours on too low a heat setting, it can cause some bad things to happen to your body, ie. stomach pains, cramps — perhaps even more severe abdominal issues — so beware and be safe!