Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dried Beans, It Is The Future

First of all, my experience with growing dried beans is about nill. Yes, I often grow Dragon's Tongue but they seem to get eaten fresh and none end up going to the seed stage. In fact, the family asked this year if I had any in the garden. I did not, having decided that I was going to experiment with new varieties of beans big time.

I've found a new favorite for green beans and so with my grandpa's Kinghorn wax bean, I've got two really good ones. The purple early bean that is suppose to do well in cold soil is still a question. I would like three really good green beans. Not that I need that many green beans but my goal is to have three really good varieties in each category, tomatoes, green bean, dried bean etc. I'm thinking of the potato famine and how growing just two varieties ended up with a whole nation starving. Those two were both susceptible to the virus that wiped them out. I want three not just good tasting but three that do well under adverse circumstances. Late spring, early frost, and a virus definitely tested the garden big time. Though the turtle and northern dried bean varieties succumbed and then came out of it, they were then hit by the heavy snow. Our season is just to short to play that game. The Contender green beans were not fazed nor were the Orcas or the Kidney beans by the virus. Of course everything was effected by the snow.

My plan for next year is to use plastic to warm the soil as a large amount of snow fell last year chilling the ground big time. Maybe a large amount of snow is normal for up here. I don't know. I do know that the soil took forever to warm up. Major chilly soil was a new lesson as was the wilt virus.

The weather and virus was a good test though bad production was the result. The next test was how big the pods were and how many per plant. Not that I counted but it became clear that the Kidney pods were the longest and the bean the largest which means more food per plant. The plants were loaded with pods, most too green with too small of bean to think of harvesting.Though the bulk of the pods did not reach maturity. there were still far more of kidneys than the other three varieties of dried beans I grew. Two containers versus a partial for Orca and the skimpy one with turtle and northern beans. Note how large the kidney pod is. It held on average six beans per pod. A northern pod is sitting on the counter. Yup, tiny in comparison.

The Orca bean's pod was not as large as the kidney and held four beans. The bean is decent size and round. Not all beans will be the kidney size so I figure good size is good enough. As for the turtle and northern beans, the pods were short with tiny beans inside. Most all the pods were still green. They were hit hardest by the virus and with the small size and short pod, the production was not nearly what the other two beans were. In fact, not worth the effort of growing them in a limited space as far as I'm concerned. I love black beans and northerns but I'll buy for now.  I'm sure that I'm partial to them because I have such a limited experience with dried beans. We have so few varieties available to us here. I'm sure there are ones out there I will love but just haven't tried yet.

I'm definitely growing kidney and orca again next year. I've got two or three more new ones I'm putting in also. Then when I get a nice variety that can handle our soil, weather, and short season I can begin to be picky about taste.

As for harvesting,instead of the traditional pull the plants and put them in storage until the pods dry procedure, I put pulled the pods off the plants and put them on a tarp in the garage. I just don't have space for the plants. And since the weather had turned to snow when I was picking and I could not glean any more from the garden at that time, I sat on the tarp and shelled beans, my curiosity getting the best of me. Many of them were not ready, stilling being a bit green.

This is what happens usually when I've let a few of the greener beans dry on their own. They shrivel up. It isn't that I've never tried growing dried beans before. It is that I've never had decent success. Few reach maturity before the wet cold weather hits and many of those shrivel when dried on their own.

See the shriveled bean that dried on its own? So with lots of the beans not mature could I save them? This would be critical in a survival situation. You would be using everything you could get your hands on. Now being the time to experiment, I tried drying them in the dehydrator at close to its lowest temperature to see if it had a different effect on the immature beans. Low and behold they dried but did not shrivel. Woo hoo!! The final test is to see if the taste is effected by the immaturity. Even if it is by a little, that will be a huge success. The other thing that thrilled me is that though the goats at first stuck their noses up at the bean plants, they later devoured them down to the sticks. Plus, the pods that I shelled were also devoured. Yeah, food for us and food for the goats.

I love it when the Lord nudges you along. I had been prompted to try my hand at growing dried beans. I didn't think much about it. I just did it this year. Inspiration struck while I was shelling beans. It cost me 40 dollars for 24 packages of 12 small mouth canning jar lids at the cheapest price I could find them.  I can go through that many jars lids in a blink. Canning is not going to be my first priority in a survival situation. Yes, I'm going to stock up on lids as I've let myself get low but after one season or two, they will be gone.  Yes, I've started to buy Tattler lids and will continue to stock up after I'm done building up my metal lid supply. They can be reused and reused but they are expensive at first to invest in and just how many jars and lids do I want?

 This year I'm running out of jars. Did I just not can that much in the past or do I just have a lot of old food? Can't tell as I do not have decent shelves in my food storage room and so most things are in boxes. It is one of my goals this year to put in new shelves replacing the pitiful wimpy ones in the storage room and empty all the old food out of jars. With a failed garden last year and no peaches or pears to can, old is about all I have from before. I want a inventory done on just what canning supplies I have when I can get things organized. I know I have a canner that needs parts and has needed parts for several years. I have two canners and have been just using the one. In 2015 the canning supplies will be stocked. I've let preparedness in this area as in many others slip while I moved and dealt with family issues.

I got a bit off tract there. The a....w ha... moment came while I was shelling beans. In a survival situation I'm not going to be putting the huge emphasis on green beans as I do now. Dried beans will be the bulk of what I grow in the bean area. Think about it. You never see a movie with the pioneers or cowboys hauling around cans of green beans or bottles. No, it is dried beans. Dried beans most years preserve themselves on their own. They shrink to about half their original size making storing wonderful.

Yes, the pioneers strung some green beans on thread and hung them to dry but the greater part of their storage was in dried beans. Today people put the emphasis the other way around and very few grow dried beans at all. Now I know why I felt the prompting to try my hand at dried beans. I love it when the Lord nudges me along teaching a little here and a little there.

This year he has me thinking along the lines of what will store on its own with little effort on my part. Time is critical as since I have moved and have more things to put away for the winter that I am short on energy and time.

This is a call to all you northern growers. What dried beans do you grow? I'd love a heads up on what varieties to try next. The seed catalogue descriptions only say so much. They definitely did not tell be enough about the turtle and northern bean to make a wise decision.  Plus, have any of you cooked the greener looking dried beans. Do they taste any different.

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