Where Have You Bean All My Life?

Beans. I know I say this every time, but beans are possibly my new favorite vegetable to grow. How is it that I’m constantly surprised by how fun it is to grow things? I planted beans for the first time this year, throwing 5-6 varieties I’d been storing for years around my gazebo in the hopes of creating a bean-covered wonderland. Unfortunately a lot of my beans were several years old and my sprinklers weren’t yet set up, so for various reasons my first beans were unimpressive at best.

Heirloom Scarlet Emperor Beans
Heirloom Scarlet Emperor Beans

Luckily I was able to hit up a gardening friend for new beans and I will be forever grateful to her for introducing me to heirloom Scarlet Emperor Pole Beans. They are beautiful, vigorous, prolific producers of gigantic beans. Not only that, the pretty red flowers attract hummingbirds, so if I’m very quiet I can hunker down in the gazebo and watch my little hummers flit from flower to flower. It’s pretty cool.

Pole beans climbing the gazebo
Pole beans climbing the gazebo

As I mentioned, Scarlet Emperors grow to be huge, about 16″ long, but for cooking I like to pick them at 8-10″ before they get tough. Once they reach 10″, which it seems like happens the second you turn your back, they’re better allowed to dry on the vine and either cooked as dry beans or saved for planting. No matter when you pick them, they have a slightly fuzzy skin that took some getting used to, but I discovered that sauteeing them with garlic and olive oil is an excellent solution. A squeeze of citrus and a sprinkling of flake sea salt and it is over. A pat of butter doesn’t hurt. Basically I used my go-to “when in doubt” recipe and, of course, a pat of butter, which everyone knows takes the sting out of life’s most pressing problems.

Scarlet Emperor Beans the perfect size for cooking and eating whole
Scarlet Emperor Beans the perfect size for cooking and eating whole

I have some stringless green beans intertwined with the Emperors too, but since I just kept throwing different beans at the gazebo and hoping they’d stick I don’t actually know which ones are growing. Kentucky Wonder maybe? Blue Lake Pole? Could be. No matter, it’s nice to have a crunchy stringless bean we can eat raw.

Speaking of crunchy raw beans, check out these heirloom White Half-Runner Bush Beans! Bush beans is kind of a misleading term as these suckers are running up and down and all around the sculptures I planted them near. They started innocently enough…

White Half-Runners growing up people sculptures in the garden
These 5′ tall metal people a friend gave us have proven to be perfect bean trellises.

… but soon took off and took over! They are also pumping out beans like nobody’s business. I have even stopped keeping track of my bean harvest since my first few weigh-ins. Just knowing I can go out and pick a handful or two every other day is good enough for me.

Human Beans - White Half-Runner Beans growing on sculptures
Human Beans – White Half-Runner Beans growing on sculptures

It’s hard to believe that I was not excited about growing beans, even as the vines took off. Mainly it was because I couldn’t think of that many uses for them. Then my dad bought me a book called Flight Behavior, written by Barbara Kingsolver. It has nothing to do with beans. It is all about monarch butterflies – risks they face, changing migratory patterns, life cycles – so he knew I would find it fascinating. Little did he know that a very minor passage about beans would grab my attention.

The main character had some folks living on her property while they studied the monarchs and she happened to mention that they devoured an entire jar of her dilly beans. Which left me wondering… what on earth are dilly beans? Looking back it’s obvious, but at the time it was a mystery that required research! If you know me at all you know I love googling, so I set to it and discovered that dilly beans are just pickled beans, “dilly” being a cute colloquialism used in many parts of the country. Well duh.

Dilly Beans with shishito peppers
Dilly Beans with shishito peppers

I found this very simple recipe online and within an hour had my first batch of pickled beans. Needless to say they are delicious and totally addictive!

Beyond looking good and tasting good, beans are well-loved and used by gardeners for their ability to absorb nitrogen from the air and transfer this nitrogen through their roots and into the soil. For this reason, beans are often used as a cover crop, helping to create a healthy, nutrient-filled environment for the following season’s plants. They require just light feedings of potassium and phosphorus throughout the growing season and grow in nearly any soil. Looking at my Scarlet Emperors, for instance, would you ever guess they are planted three to a container, and the container is filled with the sandy, nutrient-deficient soil from our yard?

Shelled Scarlet Emperor Beans
Shelled Scarlet Emperor Beans

And so I will happily continue to grow beans. I’ve got a handful of Scarlet Emperors and White Half-Runners drying on the vine and am already looking forward to next spring when I can stick them in dirt and watch them do their thing. I’ve got spots staked out on the side fence where I hope to grow a towering barrier between us and the neighbor’s jacuzzi. The pinto beans and corn I planted this year didn’t quite do the job, much to my eyeballs’ dismay.

If you’ve got any favorite recipes for beans please share them as I’ve got a fridge full of beans that need eating and a freezer collection growing fast!

Notes on beans:
Grow:
Scarlet Emperor on north fence
White Half-Runners

Don’t Bother:
Dragon Tongue, Haricot Vert

Containers okay, feed monthly K, P

~~~~~~~~~~~~ END POST ~~~~~~~~~~~

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17 Comments Add yours

  1. Love the gazebo!

    Yes, beans are great to grow 🙂

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Thanks! It is a lovely spot to sit and contemplate butterflies and beans 😉

      Like

  2. Pat Sherwood says:

    Now wanting homemade bean soup! Love your gardening experiences especially since I have a brown thumb and only a balcony. And got a good chuckle about needing a barrier between you and the neighbor’s hot tub. I can only imagine!

    Like

    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Haha, yes, we’ve spent years coming up with creative ways to shield ourselves from the naked neighbor! She begged us not to plant trees there because it shades her deck and causes moss to grow. I don’t know how, here in SD. Perhaps she just likes to put on a show Lol!

      Like

  3. Kathe says:

    Who knew that scarlet runner beans were so pretty?

    Like

    1. Sheri Fox says:

      I know, right? I’m in love with the flowers but the leaves are big and dark and gorgeous too 🙂

      Like

  4. Hilda says:

    Every year, I plant a couple of varieties of beans, am so happy with them I decide the next year to grow nothing else. And then I forget and start all over again. They are so easy, pretty and productive. I thought I would try and ferment some this year, although pickling is good too. A simple recipe I love at this time of year is slightly steamed and mixed in a salad with new potatoes, tomatoes and a garlicky, french mustardy dressing. I freeze a lot for stir fries in the winter too. And I let a lot mature to use dried in all sorts of spicy bean mixtures cooked on our wood stove.

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      That’s exactly why I made notes for myself! I always get carried away when it comes time to plant. I’m really trying to learn that more does not always equal better. That recipe sounds great. I pulled a handful of potatoes from the dirt yesterday, I think I’ll make this with dinner! I haven’t decided yet whether to bother drying beans to cook because they’re so cheap and readily available here, that and the fact I’ve never cooked dried beans. Thanks Hilda, you’re always inspiring me to try something new 🙂

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  5. Kathy Sturr says:

    My beans aren’t very good this year but I always grow scarlet runner beans – mostly for the hummingbirds. I am still holding out hope for red noodle beans! All my fault – not enough time or attention this year.

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      I can’t imagine ever NOT growing the scarlet runners now that I’ve seen them. I would cover my whole yard and all my fences with them, even if they don’t grow beans! Those red noodles look fun. I threw some yardlongs into my corn bed but they didn’t come up. Same reason as you – they’re easy, but they do require a little bit of love.

      Like

  6. Robbie says:

    Oh Sheri those are amazing!!!!I enjoy all your pictures and your sculptures with them running through is beautiful..your Gazebo is a great place to escape. You have created an “oasis” in your space!
    I am growing more food every year and beans is one that I love to eat, but sometimes the animals get a hold of them before I can train them up a trellis or arbor. This year, I put them closer to where my dogs hang out and they are not taking off the tops of my beans this year. I win they lose! Yeah me!!
    I agree I am in love with growing beans. I love the delicate flowers and then you get this food to eat!
    I have been cooking brown rice and instead of blancing them putting them in the rice dish which I also add other vegetables and freeze them together. I can’t blanch beans because they just taste like rubber beans to me!Sooo.. I did try an experiment this year ( I read it some where) they said they picked them fresh off the vine and just put them in a storage baggy using a straw to suck out the air and then placing them in the freezer. I have a bunch of these bags ready to try becasue I hate spongy beans + I don’t can beans…we shall see! The straw is a subusitute for those “expensvie” machines that suck the air out of your veggies-lol..it works! I also add them to my soups, I make up fresh from the garden and freeze for winter eating, but you don’t really get cold winters, so I doubt you have that problem:-)

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      I tried the freezer-straw-baggie trick too! I have a pile of them unblanched in the freezer. I hope whoever wrote that was right. I feel the same though, I like them crispy. I guess blanching then ice bathing is supposed to help them keep their color, so we’ll see. I like the idea of frozen rice/veggies. I’m trying to freeze more so I’m not cooking everything from scratch every meal. And I’ve been lucky with critters, just caterpillars but no major damage. The possums are too enamored with the grease pan in my BBQ to cause much trouble.

      As for our oasis, we are trying. You almost wouldn’t know our house backs up to a freeway, 6000sq’ fire station and a gas station! We just keep planting, creating a little green sanctuary in the midst of chaos Lol 😉

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  7. I love beans!!! Easy to grow, good for the soil, fun to pop outta the shells! Thx for sharing this!

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Nice to find a fellow bean-lover 😉 I’m trying now to use peas to put more nitrogen into the bed my corn is supposed to go. I’m using pea inoculant for the first time. Have you ever inoculated? It’s supposed to add a lot more nitrogen to the root system. We shall see…

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      1. I have not delved into the world of inoculants…though, I just saw something in one of the spring catalogs I’ve been mooning over on this cold neverending winter’s day! I often grow peas or beans just before or after a crop to add nutrients. I’ve also been experimenting with cover crops such as rye, buckwheat and tillage radish. The wild bees and other critters love it and the seeds are cheap and easy to use. Happy spring planting!

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        1. Sheri Fox says:

          Funny I grew elbon rye in this same bed to try to control nematodes. They never bloomed and I have no idea if it worked but my cat liked chewing on it LOL.

          Liked by 1 person

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