Most people are keen on beans. String or snap bush beans are like any vegetable, best for health fresh-picked. They are tender and sweet right off the branch. Fine restaurants often plate a few alongside gourmet fare. Bars offer pickled beans to patrons enjoying an ice-cold beer. Beans are highly nutritious, making the most of family meals. They are versatile. Eaten raw, steamed, boiled, grilled, added to stews, salads, and soups, beans are a winner with chicken dinner.
Snap and string beans are the same variety of beans. In a chat recently, a new grower was asking about string beans. She wanted to know why when her family cooked the beans and ate them, they almost choked on the string or spine of the bean?
She asked, was it because she had harvested them too late? Yes and no. Beans get tough as they mature, and any bean would be hard to swallow if it was closer to the end of its season.
Older cultivars of string beans have that tough spine where the join in the bean is. If you harvest too late, pull out the string when preparing to cook them; otherwise, they will be challenging to eat. The string isn’t bothersome if you pick the beans at their most tender. The string was bred out of many varieties, so you have to know which types are stringless beans. Your favourite seed company will guide you through discovering your favourite.
We grow three colours of bush beans in spiral planting formations. Green, yellow and purple. The varieties we use with great success are:
This bean grows as long as your hand, from wrist to fingertip. You can pick earlier, but the perfect time to harvest is when it fits in the palm of your hand. Once the bean gets to this size, it quickly turns tough as it begins to dry out. If your beans get to this point and they are no longer snapping in half with a crispness to the snap, then leave them on the branch and let the pods dry out. Once they dry and turn a beige color, you can harvest them for seed for next season. You can leave them in the pod or take them out; either way, you need to put them in a brown paper bag and store them in a cool, dry area. This process is the same for all beans, even Scarlett runner beans which are climbers and produce gorgeous orange flowers that the bees adore. We plant them every season. I’m not a fan of these beans to eat unless they are very young and tender, so I tend to let them grow and dry out. I share the bean seeds with friends and volunteers who want to grow these lovely landscape beans in their yards at home.
This is the variety of yellow wax beans we prefer to grow. They are a prolific producer and have excellent taste. Mild and sweet. They surprise the die-hard green bean fans who don’t like yellow wax beans they get in cans. It’s rare to get yellow beans in a produce department in the grocery store, but you can find them at some farmer’s markets. Harvesting beans is labor-intensive, so you need lots of hands to keep up with the 3 or 4 weeks of production. Steamed with butter and they are a great addition to any meal. We did have success with regenerating a 1/4 acre yellow bean spiral we planted. Always looking for ways to increase production, once the beans started to look like they were dying, we started an intensive watering campaign for a couple of days, then back to the typical low use watering our innovative techniques utilize. To everyone’s amazement, they filled out with new healthy, green leaves and a few weeks later produced another round of great-tasting beans—a much smaller harvest than the first growth, but a harvest all the same.
The purple color of this bean is stunning. The flowers are gorgeous. The leaf canopy is a dark green and bushy full. It makes for a showpiece in the garden or on the field. They keep producing for several weeks as you harvest them. One interesting fact about purple beans is that they turn green when cooked. The first time you cook them, you expect them to keep their Royal color, but sadly they look the same as the green beans. No worries, though; they taste great cooked or raw.
I encourage you to try your hand at growing beans. They are easy to plant from seed, and once they get going in a week or ten days, they leaf out, flower, and produce within 60 days. Bush bean plants are low to the ground and don’t need to be trellised. We plant lots of seeds close together in small holes, in double rows looped in a spiral. Planting in high-density patterns, we have found that plants are prolific givers. Being close, they create a competitive atmosphere and race for the sunlight. Their roots are linked together, transmitting underground to the collective. They are share resources like water and nutrients. As they grow, they develop a strong canopy that withstands high winds and creates shade that conserves water in the day's heat. This shade canopy protects the beans pods as they form.
Beans are susceptible to aphids and leaf diseases like powdery mildew; however, in the spiral Crop Circle Farms systems, there is not one time such challenges occurred. The bean plants are healthy and happy to produce high yields. The spiral formation creates an outside wall that provides a physical and psychological barrier to the growing space. It deters people and animals, keeping the growing area clean, which improves food safety, a serious public health challenge in agriculture. The spiral from observation has the benefit of creating an ecosystem that repels nasty bugs and attracts all those who assist in the growing process. From bees, butterflies to dragonflies and damselflies, pollinators such as ladybugs and soil aerators like worms find a home amongst the health and vitality of the spiral growth.
Preserving beans is a simple process. Beans are great to pickle, can, freeze, or use fresh for dinner straight from the field. Beans are a nutritious addition to any meal. They eat up a lot of nitrogen and produce lots of round nodules in their roots that, if left in the field or added to a compost heap, break down to provide much-needed nitrogen to the soil. Fresh from the field, they store well in a refrigerated unit in food banks for a week or more, and their guests love them. They are a popular farm market item, and farmers can bring in $5 a pound or more for naturally grown beans. A pound of beans is a large amount, so it’s a good idea to sell half pounds at $2.50. Either way, they fly off the shelf and add to the profitability of a farm or garden market enterprise.
This blog’s author is, Siobhan Shaw. Siobhan is a Crop Circle Farms systems authority. The only other person besides the inventor and patent holder with working knowledge of the intricacies of growing plants in the spiral configurations that lay the foundation for the sustainable, climate adaptive Crop Circle Farm and Garden systems.
She is also the co-founder of the people, and planet collaborative-focused non-profit, Growing to Give. This socially conscious organization helps free people from hunger by teaming up with other organizations working in the food security sector around the world. Projects are designed from small-scale farming at the community level to large acreage projects developing sustainable agricultural and eco-resort projects combining food and forest with a solid social impact aspect. The team specializes in innovative agricultural and forestry projects and eco-friendly real estate development on islands and in desert climates designed with food security top of mind.
West Coast Seeds has been a great supporter of the Growing to Give project in Kelowna, BC, on Helen’s Acres in association with Trinity Legacy Foundation. All the images in this blog are of beans, the result of bean seeds donated to the project by West Coast Seeds. Follow on Twitter @growingtogive, Instagram @growingtogive_, LinkedIn at Growing to Give, and Facebook @growingtogive1.
Crop Circle Farms provides non-profits with a special agreement to use the patented growing systems. In consultation with organizations in the food security sector, Crop Circle Farms can adapt the methods and designs to the region and improve yields and plant health while reducing precious resources such as water, soil, labor, and energy. Follow on Twitter @CropCircleFarms, Instagram @cropcirclefarms1, LinkedIn at Crop Circle Farms, and Facebook @littlecropcircle.
Thank you, West Coast Seeds, for your incredible support of the Growing to Give project in British Columbia. Shout out to Erika Simms for her excellent communication with the team.