Thoughts on Beans

I suspect the number of people who actually care about my bean growing experiences are few, but what the hell. I have grown six bean varieties this year, and you get to hear my reviews!

It hasn’t been a great year for beans for me–the weather was too weird, the peas ran late, and then everything got whacked hard with powdery mildew. (High humidity + lack of rain = oh, the mildew you’ll grow!) But honestly, that sort of thing happens–we’re in a desperately humid climate and mildew is a way of life–so it’s a good test of bean sturdiness.

I grow only for dry beans–we’re too busy and too deranged to get to green beans on time, so it’s just easier to dry, shell, and store. They get watered regularly via soaker hose and grow in soil treated with some form of compost early in the season.

Arikara Yellow — This is a bush bean, which I didn’t know when I planted it, so it grew more or less in the wrong spot and got abused by surrounding plants. Despite that, it produced a fair number of pods per plant, and according to reviews, will tolerate more shade than many beans, so I’m tentatively impressed and may grow again, despite a bias against bush beans. No significant powdery mildew problems, and holding up to our humidity well despite being from Dakota territory, which I gotta assume is a bit drier.

Good Mother Stallard — Still the champion! Getting significant powdery mildew but still growing vigorously despite it, producing a solid crop of gorgeous purple-and-white marbled beans. It’s being hit pretty hard and I’m traveling too much to baby it, so I don’t know if I’ll get a second flush of pods, but the initial round is at least a couple meals worth of rice-and-beans. Always growing this one.

Ojo De Cabra — “Eye of the Goat.” It’s a very pretty bean from northern Mexico, and it’s holding up to our humidity very well so far–very vigorous, fairly mildew resistant–but it’s not nearly so productive as Stallard. Will probably grow at least once more, to give it a fair shake, since it may flush out better later in the season.

Mayflower — Bah, humbug. This one was billed as being a staple of the Carolinas, but it’s wimpy, not very vigorous, the peas out-competed it (peas! For god’s sake, beans! Does this not bring shame to your ancestors?) the mildew nuked it, and while it was productive for being a tiny, spindly, sad little bean, that basically means I got a handful of beans to throw into mixed bean chili. Not impressed, will not grow again.

Rattlesnake Pole — Productive classic. This one’s great in chili and has been largely immune to the powdery mildew going around. It takes humidity like a champ and keeps going FOREVER. This is another one I’ll always grow.

Scarlet Runner Bean — There’s a specific way to prep these* and some day we’ll get around to it. They hail from Oaxaca. I had to stop growing them up my deck because they kept eating the railing, so I’ve replaced them with Rattlesnake Poles there. They are currently in a slightly more shady raised bed and are very leafy but not bearing heavily. In full sun, they’re amazingly productive and bring in hummingbirds like you wouldn’t believe, so they’re another always-grow, though I may need to find a new place for them to live.

I’m also growing Cowpeas, “Holstein” but they haven’t done anything much yet and are only now starting to get going. I’ve got four plants going, one of which is stunted, one of which is nearly dead, and two of which are gigantic and lush. We’ll see how it goes.

I like growing beans on arches, and may have to get another pair of arches for the garden, which will be a questionable design element but will allow for even more beans. And tomatoes! Tomatoes do great on arches! (Just harvested the first Roma and the first German Johnson. They are delicious.)

*No, they are not poisonous.