Dry beans come in so many varieties of color, texture and flavor (not to mention growing habit) that there is always something new for us to try. We’re not certain that growing dry beans is economically viable but we love them so much that neither of us can imagine stopping. You feel a tangible wealth admiring totes full of multicolored beans and we have die-hard dry bean regulars who validate our work almost every week at the Farmers Market (hey guys!!!). Beans grown with care and sold “fresh” are worlds away from the tasteless, cardboard dry beans you find at conventional grocery stores. We keep experimenting with our methods to try and make the whole process more efficient, but sometimes the simple ways suit us best.
Dry beans either have a pole or a bush habit. Pole beans require trellising to climb – without it, they’ll reach for anything close by – especially each other.
This year we experimented with interplanting sunflowers as additional trellising for our 14 rows of pole beans. We chose Mammoth Grey sunflowers which end up 12-14 feet tall.
The beans appreciated the extra vertical space (and the birds feasted on the seeds) but ultimately we feel the giant flowers provided too much additional shade, compromising our beans’ productivity. It was beautiful, though.
In the fall comes a mad rush of harvesting the beans at their driest stage, before it starts to rain in earnest. We usually give them a few days in a greenhouse to get them nice and brittle and then thresh the beans from their crispy pods. We are lucky enough to have access to a bean thresher from the ever-generous Dusty Williams, which works well so long as we actually take the time to pull the pods from their plants.
After this, the beans need to be winnowed to separate out the remaining chaff. This is Nick’s favorite part of the whole process. By pouring the whole mix in front of a powerful fan, the chaff is blown away and the beans fall into a tote.
Henry is learning to get out of the way of the fan, sometimes.
We sometimes feel a little sheepish that we charge a hefty price for our beans, but they are truly a labor of love. They are worth it.