We had so much fun growing these beans last summer. I had never grown beans before, and I wanted to give them a try because of the benefits legumes provide to soil and because we eat an awful lot of dried beans each week. I’d love to be able to grow some of what we consume.
For our first bean crop, I chose Black Valentine beans from the Seed Savers’ Exchange because they could be eaten both as snap beans and dried beans. This was appealing on many levels, but the main benefit is that it is especially nice to have both early rewards and something for the long haul in growing veggies with kids.
They are easy to pick and rather tasty as snap beans. My kids didn’t like green beans before, but they discovered that they loved these. In fact, they ate many of these straight off the vine. Within a week of their first taste, I had to start chasing the kids out of the garden because they were eating all of the beans when they went outside to play!
The plant keeps producing until you let the pods go to seed. When we were sick of eating green beans, we stopped picking them. In September, the bean pods were yellow and dry – we picked them, threshed them (by rubbing the pods between our hands and separating the beans), and stored them in a glass jar until we were ready to cook them.
This was not a high-yield crop for us. I had 6 Black Valentine bean plants, and the dried bean yield was about 3 cups. However, it was a terrific starter plant for learning about beans and for growing them with kids. We had green beans with dinner at least once a week for about a month during the season, and the kids ate a ton of them off the vine, as well. This fall, we were left with a small amount of dried beans and the knowledge that we now know beans about growing beans.
I’m really looking forward to trying pole beans and converting a huge unruly section of our back yard into a bean patch for this year.