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.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Mmmmmm. This makes me long for colder weather.

    1. Farmgirl says:

      I wouldn’t go that far, Karen! Brrr!

  2. I must plant beans for drying next year! Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

    1. Farmgirl says:

      It is so fun choosing between all the different sizes and colors!

  3. debweeks says:

    We love beans!!!!

    On one of our visits to Baker Seed company earlier this year, the cashier handed each of the girls a small brown paper bag. On a table near the cash register was a large bowl full of several bean varieties. The girls were instructed to choose whatever beans they wanted to plant in the garden. Lili carefully selected her beans, while Naomi grabbed handfuls for her bags. Having never grown them before, we had great fun putting them in the ground and then trying to guess what each plant would produce.

    I didn’t realize how easy they were to plant and still have some picked that need to come out of their shells, but we have a nice, first crop of beans from our garden and I too will plant more in the future. They really are a wonderful staple food to have on the shelf and make a great addition to soups and stews. Of course we can’t resist black beans with grilled chicken, rice, homemade tortillas and salsa. YUM!!!!

  4. Genevieve says:

    I saw this tonight while looking for something on the 9News website. I thought you might like to see it:

    http://www.9news.com/story/news/local/storytellers/2014/10/17/dougco-couple-homesteaders/17440225/

  5. Daniel Worth says:

    Fantastic article. I love beans.

    1. Farmgirl says:

      Me too! May you have plenty this winter!

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