One component of Suburban Farmacy is growing your own medicine, the other is growing your own food. On our little suburban homestead we experiment with a variety of edible plants. Many are wild ones that come up on their own and we don’t cut them down, others are intentionally planted and cared for. A very easy vegetable to grow is the bean.
When planting beans there are two primary varieties. The pole bean and the bush bean. Bush beans are basically what they sound like. They grow in a bush like shape. Pole beans, on the other hand are climbers and like a trellis or some type of support structure to climb. I’ve developed a fairly easy method of trellising them that can be put up and taken down with little effort. I usually prefer the pole bean varieties.
Start with a few standard pieces of re-bar, about 2 feet long and 1/2″ diameter. Most home improvement stores will sell them in this size. Next get a piece of 1/2″ conduit. Using a pipe bender, bend the two ends down so they’re about four feet apart. The pipe should be in the shape of a U. Now you can push (or hammer) the re-bar into the ground about a foot deep and then slip the conduit over the re-bar. Repeat with more sections every few feet apart and you have your basic structure. Next I wrap string (twine, sissel, etc.) around the re-bar threading it back and forth. Finally I’ll cut some 2-3′ lengths and tie that to the string and re-bar every so often. This creates a structure that the beans readily climb and don’t require you to reach in more than 2 feet to get at the beans. Below is a photo of a bed prepared this way. Note I had some left over angle pieces that I stuck in the middle but they did not improve the yield and I don’t do this anymore.
As to which varieties, I’ve added different ones each year to some of the ones that I find to be reliable. All are open pollinated and many are heirloom varieties. Cherokee Trail of Tears (a black bean) and Good Mother Stallard (a purplish and white bean) are the two best producers. Red Hidatsa, Hutterite, Cow Peas, Scarlet Runner, Kentucky Runner, Jacob’s Cattle, Ojo De Tigre, and Pintos have all also been grown with varying degrees of success.
I prefer dried beans (for soup) so I let them fully ripen and dry on the vine before picking them. At this point I remove the beans from the pods and allow to fully dry before storing in jars.
Today I’m making a vegetarian bean and sausage soup.
1 cup of mixed dry beans
A few cups of water
Vegetable stock paste (or substitute liquid stock for some or all of the water
Onion (1/4 cup to 1 cup depending on taste)
Celery (1 cup)
Carrot (1 carrot)
Pepper (Green, Red or a mix) (1 or 2 peppers)
Garlic (1-2 cloves)
Thyme (2 teaspoons)
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
1/2 lb of Veggie Andouille sausage (one source)
Tomato Sauce (8 oz)
Soak beans overnight or cover with water, boil one hour, then leave, off heat, in the covered pot for more hour.
Chop Vegetables and sauté in Oilve Oil in a pot.
Add all remaining ingredients to the bot and bring to a boil.
Reduce to simmer and cook until all is tender. At least an hour, longer is better and fills the house with good smells. Add more water if necessary,
When the soup is done you can puree or blend a few ladles of it and then return the puree to the pot if you’d like a thicker soup.
Serve with a good crusty bread and assorted toppings including cilantro, sour cream and/or chopped scallions. Optionally it can be served over rice or a scoop of riced added to the top of the soup bowl.