The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Harvesting experimental beans

Garbanzo beans and podsAfter carefully snipping butternuts off the vine and felling towering sunflowers with a single blow, it was time to harvest our experimental beans.  First came the garbanzos --- aren't they lovely?  The only problem is that what you see in this photo is nearly the entire harvest.  I'm not giving up on the variety, though, since a reader commented a few months ago to let me know that the extremely confusing instructions on the seed packet were really trying to tell me to plant the garbanzos at the same time as peas.  I planted them at the frost free date instead, so I'll have to give the crop a more fair shot next year.

Shelling dried beansNext stop "shelly beans", as folks around here like to call beans that you grow for drying.  The harvest in this bed was much better, despite the fact that bean bugs ate the plants down to nubbins...then moved on to my delightful Masai beans.  I'm tempted to blame the arrival of this new garden pest on the shelly beans, but I suspect that it just took the beetles a few years to find us.  Next year, I'll add the Mexican Bean Beetle to my list of bad bugs to squash weekly, and maybe all of our beans will do better.

Cayamento CranberryAlthough the quantity of pods from the shelly bean bed was good, I discovered that I should have picked the drying beans much sooner.  Many people leave beans for drying to harden on the plant, but our climate is just too damp for that sort of harvest.  By the time I picked them, many of the older pods had begun to mold, and over half of the beans were discolored.  Next year, I'll harvest the beans when the pods are still slightly green, then allow them to dry inside, out of the weather.

Urd beans in the podFinally, I came to our Urd Beans (a variety of sprouting bean.)  I thought this bed was a goner after the deer nibbled it nearly down to the ground...then repeated the maneuver a week later.  But the Urd Beans have a saving grace --- bean bugs don't like them.  Despite the name "Bean", Urd Beans are in an entirely different genus than Phaseolus vulgaris (which includes green beans and the green-bean-like shelling beans I planted.)  Instead, Urd Beans (Vigna mungo) are in the same genus as black-eyed peas, a group that seems to be of little interest to our current crop pest.

Urd bean podsI was also pleased to see that Urd Bean pods are hairy, a feature that seems to repel moisture, keeping the seeds inside dry even after the pods turn black.  I harvested half of the pods, leaving the green fruits on the vine to be picked at a later date.  The only problem I foresee with Urd Beans so far is their size --- shelling these little guys by hand would take all day.  (For a sense of scale, that's my thumbnail on the left side of the first picture of urd beans.)  I'm hopeful, though, that after I let the pods dry for a week or two, they'll be brittle enough that I can thresh them and then blow the empty pods off the seeds.

So, to sum up what became far too long of a post --- garbanzos need to be planted in early spring, shelly beans need to be harvested before the pods turn brown, and Urd Beans are my new favorite experimental bean.

Want to try something new?  Our homemade chicken waterer will never spill or fill with poop.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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The urd beans rather remind me of cowpeas, at least in terms of size - how lovely that the bean beetles leave them alone!

A note on Mexican bean beetles - make sure when you're picking them off that you check the underside of leaves and attempt to remove the bright yellow eggs - it's a pain, but it's a good way of making sure that you'll have fewer of the adults to deal with the next year (plus the larvae also eat leaves, so cutting them off early may save some of your beans this year). I try to scrape them off gently with my thumb nail. Of course, if others know of a better way to deal with this pest, that would be great! :) On the slightly bright side, they seem to come in waves: you'll have a few years with a lot of them and then hit one where you'll hardly see any. I would love to believe that this was because of my method of picking off both the adults and eggs . . . but I've already mentioned that I'm not as diligent as you are about bug removal, so there are probably some other forces at work as well, heh.

Comment by Ikwig Sat Aug 14 23:16:48 2010

I'll let you know if I come up with any control measure that's better than hand-picking. I'm only good about hand-picking if I start with an insect as soon as it shows up. Once they're at deluge levels, like this year's bean beetles, I tend to stick my head in the sand and ignore them...

I wonder if weather has anything to do with population fluctuations from year to year? With a name like "Mexican bean beetle", I might suspect they like this crazy hot weather we're having....

Comment by anna Sun Aug 15 08:20:49 2010
My understanding is that they like hot, but hate dry. Probably if I was better about keeping garden records every year (I always start, and then end up falling behind and giving up on it for that year when things get busy, heh), I would find that populations were low during a very dry year and possibly the year after.
Comment by Ikwig Sun Aug 15 09:47:24 2010
Well, this year isn't really dry in the grand scheme of things --- we've been holding steady at about three quarters of an inch per week, on average. So that might explain why the bean beetles decided they looooved us. :-)
Comment by anna Sun Aug 15 14:07:11 2010

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