Monday, December 20, 2010

Beans Part 1

Beans are another vegetable that's easy to grow at home, taste much better than the ones from the shop, and come in all kinds of strange varieties you would otherwise never encounter. They also grow alarmingly quickly, even without magic seeds that cost a cow or help from your friendly neighbourhood Totoro. All they need is a well drained soil with lots of organic matter, lots of sun and regular watering. Also keep an eye out for snails and slugs that just love the seedlings. Being a legume they don't need a high nitrogen fertiliser, they extract nitrogen from the air and fix it in the soil where it becomes available for other future crops. For this reason they're one of the plants that can be used as green manure.

Anyway, from the point of view of eating (which is especially important to me) beans can split up into those you grow to maturity to shell for the bean inside, and those you pick at an immature stage to eat pod and all. Today I'm talking about the latter, which may be either climbing beans or bush (dwarf) beans.

Climbing beans on a trellis and stakes, plus a few bush beans for good measure.
Climbing beans can reach 3 metres tall or more and require a tripod, trellis, stake or some other structure for support. They make more efficient use of space and are ideal for narrow garden beds alongside a wall or fence. Bush beans can just be planted in any regular garden bed without the need for a support structure.

Dwarf Beans "Bountiful Butter"
 I've grown both in my tiny garden, and while they both produce well, the climbing beans do make better use of the little space I have. Last year I grew climbing beans "Blue Lake" and "Purple King" together on a large trellis. The Purple King matured sooner and gave better yields, but perhaps the Blue Lake was out-competed and would have done better on its own. Another trick to growing productive plants is to keep picking the beans before they mature to keep the plant producing new flowers and pods. Otherwise it'll produce some beans, decide its job is done and head for an early retirement. Don't let them off that easy!
Beans "Blue Lake" and "Purple King"
 In any case I prefer the Purple King (and other non-green beans) not because I like strange purple vegetables, but because they change colour when ready to pick so are much easier to spot amongst the foliage. Interestingly, they change back to green when cooked. Both varieties tasted wonderful: succulent and sweet and not at all stringy unless picked too late. Once your beans get going you'll need to be out there picking every second day or so to keep on top of things. Yes, you'll have a LOT of beans, but trust me, when eaten fresh they are tasty enough to become the main focus of a meal, rather than just some token green boiled matter on the side of the plate. Cooking for about two minutes in boiling water seems to do it, then serve with a shallot confit and chopped, toasted macadamia nuts. Fantastique!

Bean Factoids: 
- Bush beans are preferred for large scale production as they are easier to mechanically harvest
- I do not know of any mazes made from beans or bean-related theme parks
- Jellybeans are not actual beans
- The beans in bean bags are not actual beans
- Beanies are not made of actual beans
- Mr Bean is not an actual bean

No comments:

Post a Comment