What about the taste of beans straight from the garden? Well, once we ate fresh homegrown beans, there was no looking back. Incomparably delicious! And nutritious!
In general, beans are a warm weather crop. The seeds sprout in soil 60 degrees and above. The plants are happiest in those temperatures, too. So it comes as no surprise that bean plants do not show much enthusiasm outdoors in our mostly cool, damp environment. Although we have had some success with a few varieties pampered outdoors under floating row covers, it is in the warmth of our greenhouse that beans have truly flourished.
Initially, like thirty years ago, I chose to grow POLE beans in our greenhouse on trellises. We grew several varieties including:
- BLUE LAKE
- KENTUCKY WONDER
- RED NOODLE
Unfortunately, they attracted aphids beyond belief!
After a few years of battling aphids, I quit growing beans.
Although I had tons of energy for gardening, I did not have much experience or insight all those decades ago. Now I have insight and experience, but not nearly as much energy!
I am thinking now that my aphid problem had little to do with the bean type, which was what I presumed back then. The problem was probably a consequence of the environment in which the beans were grown. I have not had an aphid problem with any kind of bean plant once I heeded the following:
- Beans like to be kept warm.
- Beans like a slightly acidic soil. With our acidic volcanic soil, we are pretty much okay in this area.
- Beans are not heavy feeders, so go easy on the fertilizer.
- Beans are not happy with lots of nitrogen. So, go easy if adding any manure or herring eggs. Too much nitrogen results in lots of greens and very few beans.
- Beans tend to grow shallow roots. Consequently, the roots go dry rather quickly. They need to be kept moist. So, water frequently. Mulching the soil around the base of the bean plant does wonders for retaining the moisture in the soil below.
- Bean plants do not like their leaves to be wet, especially as they fill out and have less air circulation. Water the base of the plant, not the leaves.
When I learned about the existence of bush beans, I gave beans another try. Bush beans are considered the most trouble free of all bean types.
There are many bush bean varieties. Here are a couple of varieties we enjoyed in the past:
Last year's bush bean varieties:
These three bush bean varieties will hopefully be growing in our greenhouse this year:
Here are some healthy FAVA bean starts grown from seed:
The pretty flowers on the FAVA bean plants crowd together:
The bad news, and what discourages many people from growing FAVA beans, is the amount of work it takes to prepare them for most recipes. Here is the scoop:
HOW TO PEEL FAVA BEANS
- Bring a quart of water with 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a pot.
- While the water is heating, remove all of the beans from the pods.
- When all of the beans have been removed, drop the beans into the boiling water for two minutes. (This is called blanching).
- After two minutes, scoop the beans out of the boiling water and drop them into a bowl of very cold water to cool them quickly.
- Drain the cooled beans.
- Remove the outer skin of each bean by splitting the bean skin open and squeezing out the bean.
Once the FAVA beans are skinned, they are delicious:
- added to salads
- on top of toasted, crusty bread with cheese melted on top
- added to seafood fettuccine
- as a side dish: mix fava beans with steamed asparagus and top with toasted ground almonds and a lemony dressing or sauce.
Fava beans really are delicious. You might decide they are worth all of the work once you have enjoyed their buttery, nutty flavor.
I am aware of a quick and easy way to prepare FAVA beans. GRILLING!!! Grill the unopened FAVA bean pods slowly, turning the pods frequently for 10 minutes or so until they look a little charred. Remove the pods from the grill and cool them a little. If you grill the FAVA bean pods when they are young and tender, you can enjoy eating the pod and all. If you have more mature pods, pop them open and enjoy the steamed beans from inside with a little lemon and your favorite dipping sauce.
Fava beans have done well in our gardens... both outside under a floating row cover and inside our greenhouse.
STARTING BEAN SEEDS
Why do I start bean seeds at the end of April??? It is a matter of space.
In April and May there are a large number of plant starts crowded together in our greenhouse. They are in the greenhouse hardening off and waiting for warmer weather to be planted outdoors. I start the bush bean seeds inside my house at the end of April. After the beans sprout, they grow quickly to a good size by the end of May. This coincides with when I move most of the other vegetable starts out of the greenhouse for transplanting into the outdoor beds. Once the cool weather plants are moved outdoors, there is plenty of space in the greenhouse. The bean starts, along with other heat loving plants, are transplanted into very large pots or directly into the warm soil floor of our greenhouse.
Let's look at starting bean seeds:
- Fill 4" pots with potting soil or seed starting mix.
- Place the soil filled pots on a tray of some sort.
- Poke anywhere from three to five holes in the soil of each pot. The hole should be about 1 inch deep.
- Drop a bean seed in each hole.
- Cover the beans with some fine sand or soil. Press the soil firmly over the seeds.
- Gently water all of the pots until well moistened.
- Place the tray in your warmest, sunniest window.
- You can use a seed warming mat, but it is not necessary.
- Cover the tray of pots loosely with clear plastic.
- Remove the plastic cover regularly to gently water.
- Most beans will sprout in about 10 days.
Here are some bean starts at the end of May ready to be planted in the greenhouse:
In no time at all they were happily growing inside the warm greenhouse in large black pots. The pots used were 15" tall with a diameter of 18 to 20". Three or four of the healthiest plants were transplanted into each of the pots:
The first of the bush beans were ready for picking in July.
It seems the more you pick, the more they grow!
FRENCH GOURMET GREEN BABY FILET TYPE:
The DOW GAUK plants did not produce well. After reading the fine print, it turns out that they are not actually beans. Like FAVA beans, DOW GAUK beans are actually peas. And, DOW GAUK grows like a pole bean, not a bush bean! I might try growing them again anyhow. I will be more conscious of the soil preparation, watering and other issues. Something bean-like that tastes similar to asparagus just might be worth the effort!
COOKING BUSH AND POLE BEANS
Our quick and easy favorite recipe for both bush and pole beans is to simply steam the beans about 5 to 8 minutes, until just tender, and sprinkle on our favorite seasonings or some crumbled smoked salmon.
A little fancier and more flavorful approach starts the same:
- Steam the beans for about 5 minutes.
- While the beans are steaming, cook two or three bacon strips in a medium sized fry pan.
- Remove the cooked bacon and drain on a paper towel. Remove all but a tablespoon of the bacon fat from the fry pan.
- Once the beans have steamed, remove from the pot and drain.
- Saute the drained beans briefly over medium-high heat, two or three minutes, in the fry pan containing the tablespoon of bacon fat. Stir constantly and then remove from heat.
- Crumble the cooked bacon strips and sprinkle over the beans before serving.
We sometimes harvest enough pole and bush beans to do some pickling.
The pickling process takes a little time, but is pretty simple:
- Cut the beans 3 to 3 1/2 " to fit a pint-sized canning jar.
- Steam the beans until just tender... 3 to 5 minutes.
- Remove the beans from the steamer and dump them into very cold water for about 5 minutes.
- Drain the cold beans.
- Decide how many pint-sized canning jars you will be using and sterilize them in boiling water.
- Place 1 clove of garlic, whole or chopped, into the bottom of each pint sized canning jar.
- Add fresh or dried dill weed to each jar. I like to use a lot of dill, so I grow my own.
- Fill each jar with the cut beans.
- Make a 50/50 mix of apple cider vinegar and water. You will need about 1 cup of liquid for each pint jar. Bring this liquid to a boil in a sauce pan.
- Cover the beans in each jar with the boiling mix. There should be a space at the top of the jar of about 1 inch.
- Place sterilized lids on the top of each jar and screw on sterilized rings.
- Submerge the filled and covered jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.