I never expected to like beans as much as I do. This picture was taken in July of 2010 and shows my new office after I quit my previous job. At the time I was growing wax beans, green beans and some soy beans for making soy milk. The bush type green beans would sometimes grow a long climber so that was a reversion to a parental type.
Then I started looking into how many varieties there were and wanted to grow some dry beans like the Pinto, Kidney and Lima beans. A simple way to get more was to go to the store and buy a bag of bean soup mix. Then my list expanded from the initial three to sixteen. Cranberry, Pink, Red, Turtle, Dark Red Kidney, Light Red Kidney, Blackeye Peas, Lentils, Northern and Chick Peas. Which I planted in the North Garden (the same year I was getting rid of the horsetail and renovating along that edge for water flows). Most did well, except the Lentils, Chick Peas and Blackeye Peas.
North Garden - Aug 19 2011 (765K)
The first few years of growing beans there wasn’t much cross-breeding going on and then I had one cross show up between the green beans and the pinto beans. I purchased or traded for more varieties: Appaloosa, Calypso, Coco, Etna, Edamame (Soy), Painted Pony, Money, Peregion (a blend of several types), Red Ryder, Greasy, Pink Tip and Yellow Eye.
I’m not including Navy (a smaller white bean). They were so common around here that they were almost all we used for cooking (I like them, but there is so much more variety out there to try that I don’t care to grow them or the Northern beans).
With all of these varieties growing and being open-pollenated by bees (small bumblebees seem to be the most common on the beans) cross-breeds started showing up. After a hundred I’ve stopped counting. Some of them I grow out to see if they are worth keeping. Many I have kept because they are unique and some are quite beautiful.
I also have several varieties of wax or green beans. I like to eat them when they are still crunchy out in the garden, but as you can see from the top picture I also turn them into bean salad and can them (with chopped onion and dark red kidney beans).
Almost all I’ve listed here are available for trade, but if you can find them by buying a bean soup mix locally it is cheaper far easier to do that and save the postage.
My favorite time of any harvest season in the late summer and fall is the dry bean shelling and sorting. It is magical to me, like picking stones off the beach, how so many can be unique and I also like the tactile aspect of the process. At times I get done sorting in the middle of winter and mix a bunch back together so I can sort them and see them again. OCD? Perhaps… 😄
The following are just a few examples of what I’ve grown. 2016 was a year when I only planted a few varieties. Most of my garden space was taken up by squash and I knew I didn’t have enough room for much else. Eventually I hope to have a good enough setup for the camera and lighting that I can get some good pictures of the many varieties I have here. The human eye picks up so much detail that is lost with a quick camera picture. To really capture it right needs some lighting and a really good close up camera lens.
Goats Eye Bean Tan - Sep 24 2016 (764K)
Red Beans Close - Sep 24 2016 (1149K)
Red Beans - Sep 24 2016 (1094K)
The 2017 growing season has started off fairly well with most beans sprouting that I planted. The only challenge has been to get the Edamame Soybeans to survive sprouting stage. The chipmunks have been eating them as fast as they sprout - which means I have only a few plants growing out of several hundred seeds planted. Some years nature gets a fair share earlier than I’d like. This season I planted between 50 and 100 varieties.
During and after planting I was trying to sort and combine containers to get the bean seed collection to take up a little less space. With few rainy days lately I’ve not finished yet, but I thought I would take a picture to show a version of the madness… The bigger containers on the shelves are the beans I have enough of to to eat. Many of the smaller containers have collections of similar varieties which haven’t yet been sorted out. I’ve no longer been counting or naming crosses - there’s just too many of them.
Sorting Beans - Jul 4 2017 (1527K)
The Scarlet Runner Beans are well worth the space on the fence for the color of the flowers alone.
Scarlet Drop - Sep 1 2017 (1623K)
Greasy Beans would like a little longer season here, but they do very well as you can see by how loaded those vines are with the heavy pods.
Greasy Beans - Sep 1 2017 (1551K)
Some of the first dry beans of the season. The colors don’t show up as well in this picture as I’d like, but this at least shows some of the varieties.
First Beans - Sep 7 2017 (1707K)
A bean I’ve been trying to cross-breed for the past five years. A hoped for productive and reliable bean combination (Red Ryder and Pinto). Lovely light pink pattern on these, it will be interesting to see if the color changes as they age (if it does at all), how they fare in terms of production and growth habit and disease resistance and if they are actually going to be stable.
Pink Pinto - Oct 20 2017 (1289K)
And another bean combination I’ve been trying to cross-breed for five years finally showed up. Thank you to the bees and Mother Nature. So very hard to see unless in direct sunlight, but these are from two very productive and reliable beans (Red Ryder and a tan/brown selection from a Goats Eye and other bean mix called Peregion). I’m looking forwards to seeing how they grow out next season. Given how difficult these are to see I’m going to have to go back through my cooking red beans and see if there are any in there from previous years that I just didn’t notice.
Red Goats Eye - Oct 20 2017 (1171K)