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

Mystery beans

Colorful beans

Dani brought me a bag of the prettiest dried beans I'd ever seen.  When she explained about Jack beans on the phone ("they grow so fast and tall, it's like Jack and the beanstalk"), I'd assumed the name was just another description for lablab (aka hyacinth beans, Lablab purpureus).  But it turns out Jack beans are completely different --- Canavalia sp. --- although they are edible and have also been used as a living mulch. 

On the other hand, an image search suggests that these beans might actually be scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus).  Many people grow scarlet runner beans purely for their ornamental flowers, but the beans and tubers are both edible.

Scarlet runner beans

Ever since I saw photos (which I included in Trailersteading) of a trailer shaded and spiced up by an arbor covered with fast-growing plants, I've been meaning to follow suit in front of our south-facing windows.  Originally, I'd thought of putting perennials there --- maybe hardy kiwis or hops --- but since we're pondering using that space as a greenhouse addition in the future, annuals look better for 2013.  Mystery beans it is!

Our chicken waterer is perfect for chicks from day 1.

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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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Grain + hops = beer! :-)
Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Apr 15 08:11:15 2013

Look like Runner beans to me too. Probably the most popular bean in GB. Grows to 8-10ft + in most conditions, though like most beans likes plenty of muck. very heavy cropper. Not used as a dried bean here, just eaten sliced and boiled/steamed and salted or frozen for winter.If you let the bean get too big you will need to "string" the sides before slicing. No reason why you can't have the best of both worlds and plant a hop as a perennial and the beans as a crop for this year!

Comment by Frugal in derbyshire Mon Apr 15 09:34:40 2013
That is just what my scarlet runner beans look like. Hope they grow like crazy!
Comment by jen g Mon Apr 15 09:35:15 2013

I immediately thought of runner beans, too. Apparently they come in scarlet or fuchsia. I grew the scarlet ones up over our bedroom door one year, and would lay in bed and watch the hummingbirds feed from them.

The green beans taste great. I have never tried cooking the dried ones.

Comment by Faith T Mon Apr 15 13:57:49 2013
Scarlet runner beans make a great living shade cloth here in the desert. I have grown them on the east-facing side of my house that had maybe 10 inches of growing room (no room for trees or shrubbery to shade the house), and they kept the morning-sun side of the house cooler by a good 10 degrees. When it gets to be over 100 by 10 in the morning, that's important! I grew a combo of pole beans and scarlet runners, and kept the scarlet runners in place because they regrew the following year. They can be a perennial, or at least they can here in my mild-winter area. They are WONDERFUL eaten as a fresh bean with a bit of salt and butter, and are very easy to leave on the vine to dry and then harvest as a dried bean. Enjoy those beauties!
Comment by Linda Sing Mon Apr 15 18:31:46 2013
There are also white flowered varieties of runner beans,including Minnow that produces short pods (not sure why you would want that) as well as an heirloom variety Painted Lady that has bi-coloured red and white flowers, at least one salmon pink variety Celebration, and even some dwarf varieties.
Comment by Old McDonald Tue Apr 16 05:55:35 2013

Once you have them growing and can tell by the plant exactly what they are, I would like to know.

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Comment by Clever Survivalist Blog Survival Guide Wed Apr 17 03:49:57 2013

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