Winter Beans (a homestead staple)

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Beans are the epitome of security.  They are inexpensive, easy to grow, easy to cook, satiate hunger, and are full of antioxidants, phytochemicals, protein, and vitamins and minerals.  A pantry filled with beans means a winter without hunger.  A pot simmering on the wood cook stove symbolizes love for the recipient.

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I am in love with all of the old heirloom varieties.  I am addicted to their stories.  Like Lina Sisco’s Bird Egg variety.  The beans were brought to the west by Lina’s grandmother by covered wagon.  They are the larger beans with the red speckles.  They are delicious and colorful.  Yellow Indian Woman is the yellow variety that I grew and was quite prolific this year.  It is a variety that is hundreds of years old and was used as trade by the Native Americans.

I grew black beans and cannellini beans.  There are pinto beans and Anasazi beans to grow.  Or Lima beans or red beans for Cajun food.  The only thing difficult about growing beans is what variety to choose!

In my new garden here on our homestead I will be planting a long row (34x 2 feet) of beans and garlic.  The garlic will be planted the next few weeks and as they pop their cheery heads up over the soil I will be able to plant a bean in between each one next Spring.  Some need to be trellised but many do not.  Look for the bush variety or simply put creative poles up around them.  They also do well climbing up corn.  You can even plant uncooked organic beans from the health food store.

Shelling beans can be eaten just like green beans when their pods are soft and small.  In fact, they look like green beans and you are sure to question what you planted.  Leave them on the vine until they are brown and crisp but not too long that their pods reopen and plant themselves!  Around late August to the end of September you will be harvesting winter beans.

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They must be quite dry so I keep them in baskets until I am certain they are void of moisture.  Then the fun begins.  It becomes much like the puzzle that sat out at home waiting for the next participant to place the next piece.  I leave the whole pile on the table and as we walk by we shell another bean.  It is quite addictive and rather fun.  It feels like I could be a housewife in any era shelling beans to make sure that we have enough to store.

The key is growing enough to at least put on a pot of soup!  I tuck the beans in anywhere there is a spare six inches all the way through mid-July.

I love to peruse the Seed Savers Catalogue for new varieties.  Being a history lover as well as a lover of great food makes heirloom beans a part of this homestead.