The Beans of 2005

I love beans - I love growing them and harvesting them and drying them and cooking them and eating them. So this year I planted more beans, different beans, new beans, old beans, snap beans, dry beans, tepary beans, lima beans and Bolita beans. You might say its been a great bean year. The nine bean varieties shown here all grow well in sandy alkali soils and some are even drought tolerant.

And now that winter is near again, I have the promise of delicious meals held in those jars of beautiful beans lined up on the cupbard shelf.

Anasazi Beans
Phaseolus vulgaris

Claimed to have been reintroduced into production from specimens excavated in Anasazi ruins. That may or may not be true - unusual for a seed to remain viable for six or seven hundred years. Its more likely that the bean continued growing untended in wild places and was taken back into cultivation from that stock.

They are perfectly adapted to the arid southwest and are tasty as a green snap bean as well as a dry bean. The dry pods hold the beans well, and the plants can be left to dry before harvesting dry beans.

They are moderately drought tolerant, but it best to keep them evenly watered if you want tender snap beans. The dry beans have a distinctive sweet flavor that mixes well with Black Turtle Beans, garlic and English Thyme.

You can order the beans from Adobe Mills in one to 20 pound bags and they are often available by your local Coop Market.

Bolita Beans
Phaseolus vulgaris

Another old bean grown in New Mexico is the bolita. Some claim them to be the first bean grown in the region by the Spanish and later replaced by pinto beans, which have a higher yield/acre. However, they are still grown in irrigated plots by Hispanic farmers in the northern parts of the state and by Schwebach Farms in Moriarty, NM.

I know very little about them other than they are mild and creamy in flavor as well as a robust and easy pole bean in the garden. Don’t plan on using them for green beans as they have a lightly stiff furry surface texture on the pod as well as the leaves and they are stringy. In fact the leaves tend to stick to your clothing. This is my first, but not last year for growing them.

You can order the beans from Adobe Mills in 10lb sacks and the seeds for planting from Native Seed SEARCH. You can also purchase Bolita Beans directly from Schwebach Farms in Moriarty.

Tarahumara Purple Beans
Phaseolus vulgaris

This may qualify as my ideal bean. I'll know with a couple more years of growing it. It seems well adapted to dry alkaline sandy soil and produces well even at the colder end of the season. I am still getting an abundant harvest of green beans in mid November from vines that continue to produce new growth and blossoms. Looks like it will keep on going right up to freeze. It produces abundantly while holding dry pods along with new vine growth and blossoms.

The green beans have a rich complex flavor and are easy to string.

Source for Seed - Native Seed SEARCH

High-yielding bean with gorgeous, large, shiny, deep-purple seeds. Sweet taste, smooth texture. Pole bean producing both white and lilac flowers.A collection from the high arid Mesa de Agostadero, Chihuahua - NS/S.

Hopi Black Pinto Beans - "Maawiw' ngwu"
Phaseolus vulgaris

In the garden this is a very drought tolerant, but not shade tolerant bean. I interplanted it this year with Hopi Red Dye Amaranth in a block and got very good amaranth growth and very poor bean growth. The idea was to use amaranth as a growth support for the climbing beans - the shade got in the way. Planting that combinationin an east-west oriented row would have worked better than a block.

The green beans remain tender even when the seeds form and have a fine flavor and texture. A classy and easy on the water pinto bean.

Source of seed - Native Seed SEARCH

Dry farmed in Hopi fields of northeastern Arizona - NS/S.

Little White Ice Beans
Phaseolus vulgaris

A New World bean selectively bred by horticulturists in Holland and introduced into North America around 1740. It has been popular with gardeners in the Appalachian states and is a dependable productive bean in our more arid climate and alkaline soil. It makes a fine green bean, produces two crops a year and the tough dry pods hold on to the seeds until you are ready to harvest. Its a vigorous although not drought tolerant pole bean with a smooth creamy texture and excellent flavor.

Source of seed - Baker Creek Heirloom Seed

San Felipe Pueblo White Tepary Beans
Phaseolus acutifolius

I didn't know what to expect when I planted those tepary beans. It was a new crop for my garden and an adventure in dry land gardening. I had selected the San Felipe Pueblo White Tepary Beans to grow out for the Garden Network Project with Native Seed SEARCH where in exchange for free seed I would keep growth records and take documentation photographs of the beans.

I assumed they would have a bushy type growth pattern and had read enough to know to wait for a good summer rain before planting. Germination was quick and about 80 percent. Growth was rapid for beans and it soon was evident that I had climbing or sprawling bean plants. Turns out they climbed readily up the tree branches I stuck there for them and eventually reached the nearby bird netting with some climbing over 9 feet up.

The mass of bean plant growth seems ignored by insects and diseases and shows no response to drought conditions. It has been a wet monsoon season here in southern New Mexico and so far I have not watered the bed of Tepary Beans. They blossomed abundantly, set fruit right through the hottest days and are now showing dry pods ready to harvest. When I have enough for Tepary Bean Soup I’ll share the flavor and recipe in another post.

Useful Links:
Source for Seed Native Seed SEARCH
University of Florida Extension Bulletin
Cooking and Recipes (Heritage Foods USA).

Dixie Speckled Butter Peas
Phaseolus lunatis

The Butter Pea is one of many sieva types or small seeded lima beans that are descendents from domestication of the wild ancestors of Mesoamerica – central Mexico to Costa Rica and into northern South America. The earliest archaeological evidence is from Mexico dating to at the latest 800 AD. So how can you call a bean that old, young? Relative to other bean domestications that predate maize these little guys are rather new arrivals.

The Dixie Speckled Butter Pea is one that I grow every year, since I love the flavor and growing them is the only way to get them. Besides they may be the most prolific bean in the whole garden – and a small bush form at that! You can plant them as soon as soil temperatures reach 65 F and all chance of frost is past and they will produce beans almost continuously until killed by frost. Last year they were still blooming when nipped by the first frost and kept producing beans on the lower parts of the plant. In Las Cruces you will get some blossom drop in the dry heat of June, but the rest of the season they seem immune to everything, if you keep them evenly watered.

If you think you don’t like lima beans, give these little guys a try. You might be surprised by their rich yet mild flavor.

Source of seed - Baker Creek Heirloom Seed
Information on - Bean Domestication and History
Information on - Characteristics and Requirements
Wikipedia link - Lima Beans

Christmas Lima Beans
Phaseolus lunatis

Christmas Limas were brought into the U.S. around 1840 and have been grown in home gardens since then. They are decedents for their large seeded ancestors domesticated in South America 7,000 - 9,000 years ago.

They are a vigorous bean that easily climbs to 10ft and produces continuously until frost. In Las Cruces they seem little effected by the hot dry June weather or bean diseases. They cook quickly and have a rich nutty flavor and can be eaten either as a mature or green seed.

Source of seed – Baker Creek Heirloom Seed
Information on – Bean Domestication and History
Information on - Characteristics and Requirements
Wikipedia link - Lima Beans

Hopi Yellow Lima Beans - "Sikyahatiko"
Phaseolus lunatis

The Hopi Yellow Lima bean is a very prolific bean with a long growing season. It should be sown direct in the garden when soil temperatures reach 70F. It will bloom and produce pods until the first heavy frost. Pods can be harvested green for shelly beans, picked when dry and rattly or left until frost. The plants can be left to sprawl or tied up on a trellis. They are weak climbers if left alone.

Last summer I started with 25 seeds and managed, after a couple of failed tries, to get ten vigorous sprawling plants producing a wealth of pods and beans. My first priority was to save a supply of seed. And a good thing I did! They are not offered this year by Native Seed SEARCH, and may not be available again until the next grow-out of that variety (could be a 10 year wait). Well, that’s the way it is when you find something you like outside the mainstream, you have to maintain your own seed supply from year to year.


till next time,

Darrol Shillingburg
Doña Ana County Extension Master Gardener

Home Art Web Photo Album