Did you know that pinto beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, and other dried beans are simply seeds? If you grew beans last year and dried some for eating through the winter, you can use those very same beans to plant in the spring. Although saving seeds from some vegetables can be complicated because of cross-pollination issues, this isn’t normally a problem with beans, which makes them a perfect introduction to the world of seed saving.
When we grow beans, we only pick the smallest and most tender beans to eat as green beans. Once we can see the seeds bulging in the pod, we leave them on the vine to dry. Then in the fall, when they are completely brown and crunchy, we pick them. We normally shell the beans by hand while watching television or chatting around the kitchen table. This excellent video from Seed Savers Exchange, however, will show you how to do it more quickly by threshing and winnowing.
Why would you want to grow your own beans when you can buy them cheaply at the store? Because you can easily grow them organically and because you can grow a huge variety that is not available in the grocery store. There are literally dozens of different beans available, such as Cherokee, calypso, rattlesnake, and lazy wife. In addition to having different looks and flavors, they also have different attributes.
For example, one reason I grow lazy wife beans in my garden is because they are a favorite of Japanese beetles. Yes, you read that correctly. Because the beetles love them, they ignore my other beans. It’s a win-win because I get a great crop of green beans from other varieties, and it makes it easier to knock the beetles into a bucket of soapy water in the evening because they are all congregating on the lazy wife beans. When you grow different varieties, you’ll soon discover which ones grow best in your garden.
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