"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Full of Beans Part 1 - Runner Beans

I love my beans, especially when they are done. Not done in the sense of "well done" but done as in "finished done," meaning I am finally done processing them done. One of the nice things about our beans is that we dry most of them and I can put off the shucking of beans for, well, for as long as I really need to. So the bean dance seems to take place a little later every year. A couple weeks ago the grandson and I finally finished working our final tub of beans. It was a good year, and we ended up with more than we had originally thought, certainly more than enough to see us through the winter months with plenty of soup.

Doesn't grandson look like a thrilled participant? He suggested that perhaps we shouldn't grow any beans next year. I think he is praying that this chore will soon be over.:)

A couple of the varieties we grew were our long standing favorites, Painted Lady and Scarlet Emperor runner beans; provided with proper support they can grow upwards of 15'. I grew most of them along an 11' high fence and also set up a couple very tall poles which all of the plants where able to summit before fall...not so easy to pick that way. Apparently you are supposed to pick runner beans very regularly in order to keep the pods from reaching maturity as this will prevent flowers from forming. We don't, as our runner beans are used for dry soup beans and we still seem to get quite a few per plant.

Not only are the cooked beans edible but the flowers, leaves, and roots can be eaten as well, I have never tried any of these but supposedly it is popular to do so in South and Central America where this bean originated. Of course I have also read that the roots are poisonous so I will probably shy away from dining on them until I better understand the edibility aspect. I suppose that as with the mature bean itself, cooking removes the toxins.

Runner beans twine upwards in the opposite direction of most other pole beans. Would that be clockwise or counterclockwise? Got me, I guess it depends upon how you are looking at them.

The runner beans were picked a few at a time as they matured and set in the greenhouse for a few weeks to finish hardening up. I've heard this perennial's root can be dug up and overwintered to be replanted in the spring, I might have to try this sometime just to find out. All in all, they performed nicely this year. I was a little nervous early on as hummingbirds were actually fighting over the flowers, knocking many of them to the ground. Such an interesting little bird, we have never seen so many, chasing each other around squabbling and playing like a bunch of happy little children.

I think the mottled brown ones are Painted Lady and the pink and black are Scarlet Emperor?

A friend recently gifted us with a plethora of new bean varieties to try in next year's garden and hopefully many of these new additions will become welcome standards. I can't wait to try growing them.

Winter has barely started and I am already anxious for it to conclude. My wife and I both agree that it is much more enjoyable to play in the dirt than the snow....brr, -6° F this morning. You know it's cold in Idaho if chicken poo bounces after hitting the ground.


Anonymous said...

Mr. H.,
You have some good looking beans-
and the soup made from them looks delicious. The flowers alone on the plant are so pretty. Wow for them to grow 15 feet is fantastic.
They would definetly be a neat thing to grow.

It's me ...Mavis said...

The chicken poo is bouncing here too... it was 26 degrees today... I brought the chickens warm water three times today... I'm ready for winter to be over as well.

Ayak said...

There's something very satisfying about winter soups with lots of beans. Your beans look wonderful.
Your grandson is very cute!

Stefaneener said...

Brrrr. Do you heat the water for the chickens? Lovely beans!

Heiko said...

Chicken poo bouncing!?! You make me shiver all the way over in Italy! No sign of frost here. It's the time for warm bean stews and soups, which will of course generate plenty methane to warm your climate...;-)

randi said...

Mike, it'll be Spring before you know it. At least take a day or two to catch your breath. It's snowing madly here and I gotta say it's gorgeous but I know what you mean, I too am already excited about next season!

el said...

My runner beans are pink-tinged and they're plain old Scarlet runner beans. But: they're all good...thanks for the inspiration, it's beans and bread tonight!

Gary Jen and Ruby said...

Pink and Black are the Scarlet Emperor, a great favourite of ours.

A nice read!


Mr. H. said...

Vickie - They do have pretty flowers that the birds and bees just love and are on of the few vegetables that many people grow for the flowers alone...but not us.:)

Mavis - Yes, before I was into gardening I liked winter a lot more. We went for a long hike in the mountains this past weekend and plan on using this winters nastiness as an time to get into shape.

Ayak - Thanks, the only issue with the grandson is that he likes to pose for the camera. I can get a goofy smile or a sad face but never a normal reaction...silly boy, he is worse than me.:)

Stefaneener - I have a couple of wonderful bird bath heating mats that I put in the bottom of their bowls and they do a good job of keeping the water cool but not too warm. It took the birds a couple of days to get used to the weather change and leave their heated hotel room but they were all out happily roaming about the backwoods today and it never got above 15°this afternoon.

Heiko - Ha! Methane, yes the chickens themselves give out plenty of that. Their poo really does bounce this time of year. I had to pull a frozen clod of it off one of the less comely birds and it did indeed bounce and roll after hitting the ground...really.:) How in the world my wife ever talked me into getting chickens I will never know...and now she wants a dog...Ay yi yi!

Randi - Did you ever get those gloves dried out?:) I heard you all were getting some snow...what's new, right. Winter is great but I have been so impatient of late and have way to many things to accomplish...this hibernation thing is just not for me. Perhaps if it was just two months and February was nice. Who knows perhaps this will be the year. They, the weather girls, say we are supposed to be experiencing an El Nino this year...but of course it has been rather cold of late, perhaps they are once again misguided in their attempts to predict the weather.:) No snow makes me nervous for that poor peach tree, although I did bundle it up the best I could.

El - One of my favorite meals for sure, of course I fancy a good bowl of home grown pea soup and bread as well. We made cornbread from our own corn to go with it...that is a first for us and so very much better than regular cornmeal...and darker too. Right now I'm trying to talk the family baker, my wife, into making some pasties...wish me luck.

Gary Jen and Ruby - Thank you, I had it right.:) Are they not the best beans, we just love them. Apparently there are quite a few varieties of runner beans and I must try some more. I hope the rain has continued to let up for you and that all your new additions to the garden will be able to put down roots before anymore wet weather comes about.

Sylvie said...

The beans are gorgeous, aren't? it's been a long time since I grew runner beans. I need to do it again. The flowers are exquisite too - almost as pretty as sweet peas (but nothing like their intoxicating scent). I remember that the hummingbirds were attracted to the red flowers: that was a wonderful bonus!

Michelle said...

The beans look wonderful. Mmm, soup with beans is a favorite. Actually, hot soup of any type is a favorite and that's one of the things I like about winter - soup. I even have it for breakfast sometimes.

So, it's not quite cold enough here for the chicken poop to bounce, but it's too cold for me. Boy am I glad we don't get 15F cold snaps. (Weather wimp, I admit it!)

I'm looking forward to seeing the new beans that you'll be growing.

LynnS said...

Just when I was about to type up a nice comment, I read everyone else's comments before doing so. Then I read this comment of yours and got totally thrown off: "Right now I'm trying to talk the family baker, my wife, into making some pasties...wish me luck. "

I forgot what I was gonna comment about beyond the gorgeous beans and delicious-looking soup. And how a little boy seems to work the camera, of course.

What I wanna know is if you really think you'll get your wife to make some pasties? Do tell!

PS Can you send me an email when you get a chance -- I need your snail mail addy again. My PC died during the night and your info was on a computer file. BTW, Im blaming the death on the MS update that froze the machine, now pronounced dead at 8:15am EST by yours truly.

Your box is packed up and ready to ship out when I know where to send it! lol

Mr. H. said...


They are quite pretty and yes the hummingbirds went crazy over them. This was the first year that I have really noticed that. I hope you do give them another try in the garden.

Mr. H. said...


I also love my soup and it does indeed make for a wonderful breakfast. I am suprised at how cold it is in your area. Perhaps I won't bother moving to California for the warmth after all.:)

Mr. H. said...

Oh Lynn,

I'm not sure how to respond, it took me sometime to figure out what you meant.:) So no, she will be making the Northern U.S type of pasty not the burlesque type. Besides, it's much too cold up here for that type of attire, leastwise in December.:)

Silke said...

Mr. H., I have missed quite a bit on your blog while I was on vacation. I'll have to get all caught up! Your bean harvest looks amazing and it must feel good to have all that food stored away for the winter months! You are right though, I don't think you grandson was very thrilled with your great harvest of beans... Did you say -6℉?! That's way too cold for my taste! It's a lovely 56 degrees here today... Stay warm!! :) Silke

Diane@Peaceful Acres said...

I couldn't agree more...it's much more fun to play in dirt than snow!

Your bean harvest looks amazing and I have added dried beans to my list for "next year". You grandson is so cute and it's so neat that you've involved them in your garden work at such an early age...I can't wait!

Mr. H. said...


Yes, it was 6 below the other morning but a balmy 9°above today. It really is surprising how fast a person can adapt to the cooler weather after the initial shock of it though. I would be a melting snowman at 56°:) I don't really mind the cold as long as there is no rain involved...I dislike cold wet rainy weather.

Mr. H. said...


The nice thing about dry beans is that most any bean can be used dry. One of our favorites are Kentucky wonder pole beans. The boy actually does enjoy many of these tasks, and will hopefully remember them later in life.

pd said...

Hi there, I love, love, *love* our blog! I have been reading it for a few weeks (months?) now and I find I alwasy learn something new and also I get a good laugh every time I visit (with you, not at you :)

Would it be okay to add your blog to my blog list? I know, old fashion I am, but I do like to ask to be on the safe side...let me know whenever you have the time.


Mr. H. said...


Thank you for your kind comments I would be honored to be on your blog list. Old fashioned is good. I am looking forward to reading through your blog as well.


Anonymous said...

I tried emailing some more pics but they emails bounced. Do you have a new email address? If so, send pease send it to me. Mine's the same.

Eva (BC)

Mr. H. said...

Hi Eva,

I would love the pictures and have sent you an email. My email address has not changed.

Frugilegus said...

Those purple beans look similar to beans I saved (though in rather smaller quantities!) so thanks for helping me find a name to give them.

I spent many evenings as a child being told that podding beans was fun. I think I was resistant at first, but happy memories now, so keep at it! Though our shelling was sitting outside on warm sunny evenings, which helped. I definitely preferred doing the broad beans because of their furry pods.

Mr. H. said...


Thanks, I will keep after it and hope that the lad also has fond memories about these tasks someday.

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