Thursday, 30 September 2010

A Hill of Beans

It's always bothered me that the phrase 'A hill of beans' means something of little worth. You'd think after over 9,000 years of keeping the human race going, being one of the first (and most easily) cultivated crops & growing in the poorest soil (so no matter how poor you were, or how lousy the patch of land you had was, you could grow enough legumes to keep yourself going), the humble bean could maybe get a little credit.
It's okay, legumes. I'm a pariah too.
You can save & store any of the bean family, though Broad & Runner beans are kind of slutty, so if you're saving for sowing next year, you should grow them in isolation. French beans don't usually cross with each other, so you should be okay with growing different varieties of them together.

Beans are staggeringly easy to preserve. Late September/early October is the best time to be doing it, as you'll need to get them harvested before the first frosts. Like most harvesting, it's best done on a dry day. Beans are best dried on the plant, so check your climbing frames for pods that have started to dry out & turn brown. Pick 'em & pod 'em (but don't leave it so long that they split open & spill their seeds. That's pretty disheartening). If they're not dry by mid-October, then you can pull up the whole plant & hang somewhere sheltered to dry out. If you don't have that kind of space, pick the pods & arrange on cardboard trays (or anything that's breatheable, for fear of the dreaded mould!) somewhere warm & dry, making sure that they get plenty of air circulating around them.

Once dry, shell the beans. This is one of the most soothing things you can be doing in your garden in October, it's like shelling peas, only they're bigger, fatter & come in a variety of beautiful colours & patterns. The photo above shows one of my haphazard seed piles. Once dried I'll sort them into groups, but for now I just like the way they look together! There's a mix of Borlotti di fuoco, Orca, Kentucky Wonder Wax, Scarlet Emperor, Trail of Tears, White Lady & Cosse Violette

Once shelled, spread out on trays & leave somewhere for a week or two (depending on how dry they were to begin with. When they are hard & brittle, they're dry. Don't resist the urge to run your fingers through them, small pleasures are what life's all about.
Once dried, you can pack them up in paper envelopes for sowing next year or swapping with other veg growers, or you can store them in a jar & use to make soups, stews, chillies & other beany delights.

You don't have to just grow beans for podding either. All beans taste good dried, so if you stop harvesting your green beans at about mid August you'll get a good crop of beans for drying in early October. How cool is that?

A fair trade for a cow, if you ask me.

1 comment:

mangocheeks said...

Well you have taught me something new today. I honestly had not heard of the saying 'a hill of beans'. I asked D if he had and yes of course he has...he goes on to recite.

Thank you for sharing and amusing me at the same time. I always enjoy reading your posts and you have written quite a few recently, so I am off to check them out.


Have a good weekend. Typically, Rain is predicted here.