Post by Jessica | Photos by Corissa
Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program

This year we planted another round of heirloom dry beans.  While dry bean production on our site isn’t necessarily economically efficient, it’s a good practice for several reasons.  Beans, peas, and other legumes fix nitrogen in our soil, but this is one of the reasons we include a variety of legumes in our cover crop schedule.  We also love dry beans for their extended shelf life. These beans, once dried correctly, are storable for one or even several seasons. Leftover beans can even be planted the following June to produce again and save on seed costs. Beans can be prepared in many different ways, they provide a nutritious protein, and also serve as a great locally grown meal in the dead of winter!

One more reason that we are crazy about these heirloom beans is that they are simply beautiful and maybe even a little magical!  I love nothing more than walking past the bean patch as pods are drying on the plants and plucking one off.  Shelling them is such a treat!  Each bean, while still it’s own specific variety, is completely different and special in it’s own way.  Their colors and spots develop as they mature and it’s so fun to compare beans from the same pod, noting the differences and similarities. I must admit that I can’t help but wonder if one of these beans could contain the same magic as the beans that Jack planted in the old fable. I guess we will keep on growing them, just in case. 🙂

Varieties grown this year included Vermont Cranberry, Jacob’s Cattle, Calypso, Black Turtle, and Hidatsa Shield Beans. We have been working with these varieties for several years and are very pleased with them for flavor and productivity.  One of the best varieties I have grown (though I didn’t this year) is Arikara Yellow.  The flavor is amazing, and we plan to get those in the ground next year.  Cow Peas and Cream Peas are also lovely dry beans to think about planting.  Shelling dry beans is quite time consuming but can be a really nice group activity.  Last year we utilized a mechanical sheller from the University of Kentucky, but this year we got a group of ladies and kiddos together and shelled beans for a few hours on several chilly fall mornings. Good times!