Dried Pole Beans

It has been a long time since I finished my harvest of dried beans.   They have all been shelled, sorted, and weighed.

All the pole beans are planted under tripods and trained to climb on twine.  Each planting consisted of 9 beans, planted 3 on a side.

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In addition to the pole beans I have planted other years, this year I added 6 new varieties.   They where selected based on their bean size.  (It is easier to shell large beans.) 

Here is their yield and some basic characteristics.

  • True Red Cranberry = 1 lb, 10 oz
    Similar to kidney bean flavor
    from the Abnaki Indians of Maine



  • Good Morning Stallard = 2 lbs.
    Sweeter meaty flavor, great for soups



  • Speckled Cranberry = 10 oz.
    From England, a triple purpose bean,
    (snap bean, green shell, dried bean).



  • Hidatsa Shield Figure = 2 lbs. 3 oz.
    From the Hidatsa tribe of North Dakota.



  • Brockton Horticulture = 1 lb., 14 oz.
    Took longer to cook,
    nutty flavor, from Brockton, Massachusetts.



  • Sunset Runner Beans = 2 lb., 5 oz.
    Smooth inner meat, chewy skin.



All total I harvested over 13 pounds of dried beans to be used in soups and other recipes.    For storage they where sealed in vacuum bags.

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While separating some of the beans to be used next year for planting I discovered that the beans I harvested are not the same shade as the beans I planted. 

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In this picture of 2 varieties, the beans on the left of each group are the beans that I planted.  The beans on the right of each group are the beans I harvested.    For some reason they have lost their dark tan coloring.  Next year I will plant some of the original beans and some of my harvested beans.  It will be interesting to see what I get.   Is the change because of my growing conditions or have my beans cross pollinated and changed.


The seeds I planted came from http://www.seedsavers.org/ .

Trendy Bean Soup

trendy bean soup

trendy bean soup photo by vsimon

How many food trends can you fit into a bowl? Let’s count.

  1. Local.
  2. Organic.
  3. Backyard gardening.
  4. Low carbon.
  5. Heritage seeds.
  6. Naturally nutritious.
  7. Food is the new health insurance.
  8. Gluten free.
  9. Frugal.
  10. Make ahead meals.

OK, that is enough for one abundant bowl of bean soup.

We grew many beans this year in our back yard garden. You can’t get any more local than that. Pesticide free and organic, there was plenty to share with the bugs. Together these trends lead to another -> low carbon.

The seeds are saved year to year, from an old heritage line.

Plain old beans are naturally nutritious. You couldn’t pack more fiber in if you tried. And are great sources of many vitamins and minerals, no need to add more. This type of food makes the best health insurance.

Beans are inherently gluten free and frugal. They might be the definition of frugal in a dictionary somewhere. Ours were free!

Our beans

They are mostly scarlet and pink lady runner beans, with a few coco rubicos thrown in. We grow them on 7’ tee-pees,  hummingbirds buzz and hover from one to another all summer long. 

These colorful beans cook to a lovely coco brown.


scarlet runner dry bean photo by vsimon

How to cook beans

The traditional way to cook dry beans is to soak overnight in a large amount of water. The beans swell and double in size, or more.

In the morning you can drain the water and add fresh, or not. Some say draining gets rid of the trouble makers in the GI compliant department.

Bring the beans and water to a simmer and cook until they are soft. How long to cook beans varies on the size, age, and type of bean. This could take an hour or more. Skim off any foam that forms. You’ll have to do this several times.

The runner beans are very large, the size of a butter bean or big lima. The coco rubicos are half as big. If the little ones fall apart by the time the big ones were done, no worries.


coco rubico dry bean photo by vsimon

Quick soak

I wanted to pressure cook this soup and hadn’t soaked the beans overnight. So I quick soaked these beans. That means to cook for a little bit, then let them sit, and swell.

Put the beans in the cooker and see how far they come up the side. Then add water to a level two times higher than the beans.

Make sure you have a large enough pressure cooker. Foam can plug the safety vents. Don’t fill a pressure cooker more than half full with beans and water.

Bring them to pressure and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, and leave the cooker on the burner. Allow the pressure to release naturally (slowly). You can achieve in one hour what an overnight soak would accomplish.

After the quick soak, I added a bit more water. Enough to so there were equal layers of the plump beans and water above them.

Then I cooked these for only 15  minutes. I quickly released the pressure to see if they were tender, they were. If they weren’t, I’d lock the lid back on, bring to pressure, and cook a bit longer.


pink lady runner dry bean photo by vsimon

Cook without a recipe

I could write a recipe for this soup, but I am not sure know how useful it would be to you. You only need to follow the general cooking instructions above.

Or follow the specific instructions on the package of beans you buy. There are many, many kinds to try.

You can add onions, celery, and carrots to the mix while you cook it. When it is done, puree it smooth, or chunky. Or leave it brothy.

There are many seasoning suggestions beyond salt and pepper. Make it Mexican with cumin, oregano, and garlic. Make it savory with thyme and sage. Smoked paprika makes it lovely. Make it Midwestern with chili powder and tomatoes.

*Don’t add tomatoes until he beans are soft though. If you add them in the beginning, your beans may never get soft.

Bean soup is a filling vegetarian meal. Or you can add any leftover meat you like, such as ham, pork, or sausage.

I added sausage and leftover pork roast from pasture fed animals, purchased directly from a local farmer. Is that another trend I spot?

Be sure to serve bean soup with a splash of vinegar! I learned this from the folks at the nursing home I worked at years ago. And my husbands family does it too. It adds zip and ups the saltiness, without ever more salt. I like good vinegar here, apple cider, sherry, or Champaign.  Don’t use malt vinegar, it is not gluten free.

Make ahead

Bean soup freezes (and thaws) beautifully. Make a big batch, cool it, package it, freeze it. You can have lunch or dinner in February from soup you make tomorrow.

What are your favorite dry beans for soup?


Enter the Gluten-Free, Hassle Free book giveaway by January, 13, 2010.

Giving Thanks for our Garden Harvest

Our larder is full. OK, that was fun to say, but we don’t really have one.

But our pantry and freezers are full. With local produce. Really local produce, from our backyard garden.

Those of us who grow our own truly appreciate our abundance. We feel secure knowing we have more than enough food to sustain us through the winter.

Giving Thanks for a successful harvest is the whole point of the first Thanksgiving. The natives knew a thing or two about what grew.

Gardening is all about respecting “place”. What is your place like? What kind of soil you have? And how much rain, sun, and warmth?

I know it is not practical for everyone to grow your own. Still, I encourage everyone with a small plot of land, or even a pot in a spot of sunshine to grow something. You can witness the earth’s daily spin, and the yearly rotation around the sun. Majesty in detail, in your own backyard!

We have lots of gardening experience. I invite you to ask questions and we will help as much as we can.

Our Wisconsin garden is in zone 5, on the Rock Prairie. It is home to some of the best soil in the whole world. And plenty of water. Most things grow really well here.

This year we expanded our garden to 25×50 feet. Most of our veggies were in the official garden. But our eyes are always bigger than our plot. We buy seeds and plants and have to figure out where to put them. So a few things were planted in the flower borders.

This week I’ll review our 2009 garden choices, and vote yea or nay to a repeat performance. Some things I have already posted about, check the link for more info.

There is a lot to talk about. Get yourself a cup of tea and let’s go alphabetically.

fireside apples

fireside apples photo by vsimon

ApplesFireside. Yea. And it is a tree, so it it coming back next year without any intervention on our part.

Basil-sweet Italian. Yea, an annual repeat.

Beansyea. We planted so many beans. We ate them nearly everyday for a month and a half. We probably froze enough for two years. We gave lots to the food pantry. And we harvested dry beans. I’ll post on those when we use them in the dead of winter.

This year we planted Coco Rubico, Foot Long, Italian Romano, Maxibel, Roma II, Scarlet Runners, pink flowered runners, and yellow bush fillet. That is a nice variety, we liked them all.

If you are new to gardening, start with beans. They are easy, successful, and popular.

green beans and beets

green beans and red beets photo by lsimon


Blackberries-so far, rapid growth and no fruit. We started these alongside our woods, which is probably too shady. The canes easily grew 12 feet in a year, and overwhelmed everything in their path.

We dug them out and put them in the yard, removing even more grass. They suffered a temporary setback, but took off again.

I mow off the tips with the lawnmower. I’ll give them two more years, tops. If they do not bear, they are outta here.

Blueberries– so far, these have been a disappointment. We have three shrubs planted in the landscape. They are three years old and have gotten eaten down to the ground by rabbits each winter.

This year they did get big enough to show beautiful red leaves in the fall. We are protecting them with wire and mulch to keep the bunnies at bay. And hope for at least a small crop next year. Maybe that is optimistic.


cabbage in situ photo by vsimon

Cabbageyea. We had a few 2-3” rainfalls this year and our cabbages exploded. So we needed to use them quick.

We made slaw and sauerkraut. I like slaw, but the sauerkraut was a new experience. Real, naturally fermented sauerkraut.

I can’t get past the layer of mold you need to remove to get to the kraut. 🙁

Cilantroyea. Cilantro goes to seed quickly. It is best to plant small amounts every two weeks to ensure a long harvest.

Chivesyea. It is lovely to chew on a chive stem every time you pass by the plant. It is a perennial, super easy to grow. You could whack it in half every spring and share with your friends.

We have it on the edge of the flower garden, and in a planter on the deck. I can easily cut off a bit and add a fresh bit of green to any dish.

pickles (6)

pickled produce photo by vsimon

Cucumberyea. Perhaps fewer plants though. Vince made lots of pickles, also freezer cucumber salad. I’ll post about those later. And we used a few fresh in salads.

Still, we had WAY to many. So I brought pounds and pounds of cucumbers to the local food pantry.

Currantsyea. It is a shrub that comes back on it’s own. We don’t get a big harvest and usually make currant jam, occasionally a pie.

Egg PlantLittle Fingers. I say yea, Vince says nay. Really, he’s happy to plant them, but won’t eat them.


fennel bulb photo by vsimon

Fennel– I say nay. Vince says yea. Only a few plants developed bulbs, and not just green airy tops. In fairness, they were squeezed in between pole beans, and could have used more sun.

Leeksyea. They are a tradition in our garden. Made into potato leek soup every fall.

Ground Cherriesyea and yea. What a find! We saw a plant at the nursery and made room for it. Ground cherries will be back next year for sure.

grnd-cherry-jam (6)

ground cherry jam photo by vsimon

Mintyea. Chocolate mint. It is planted along the north side of the garage. No sun ever, and no water from us. I eat it occasionally. But mostly I like the way it smells when I cut the grass.

Muskmelon-Fast Break Hybrid. Yea? Nay? ??? We got 4 mini melons. They serve just one or two, very cute. With typical muskmelon flavor, color, and texture.

This wasn’t a good year to judge these. They were supposed to ripen in a short season, but it was the coldest summer on record here.

And the melons were planted with the potatoes. We thought the potatoes would be done earlier than they were, and they shaded the melon vines.

pickled-peppers (2)

cherry pick peppers to be canned photo by vsimon

Peppers– Cherry Pick, Hungarian Hot Carrot Pepper, Red Bell. Yea, to all three kinds. Cherry Pick are prolific, small, round, red, and sweet. Vince pickled most of them.

Hungarian Carrot peppers look just like little carrots. And they are HOT!!! There are not many on a plant, but a little goes a long way.

We have to wait to the very end of the growing season to harvest sweet Red Bells. And we only get a few. I love them fresh so much, I still make room for them every year.


parmesan roasted cranberry red potatoes photo by lsimon

PotatoesCranberry Red, Red Bliss, Swedish Peanut Fingerling. Nay, yea, and yea.

The Red Bliss were simply from potatoes sprouting in our cupboard. A good all around salad potato.

The Swedish Peanut Fingerlings were a treat. They are super yellow, yellower than Yukon Gold’s. We have been roasting and mashing them.

German Beer radish

German beer radishes photo by vsimon

Radishes-German Beer, Red Meat. Yea and ?? (crop failure). German Beer radishes are hot and horseradishy. A fun party in your mouth.

Raspberries-early and late reds. Yea, yea, yea, and yea. We harvest fresh raspberries from late June to frost. Sometimes lots, sometimes just enough for breakfast.

We stared with just 6 bare canes, maybe 15 years ago. And our patch grows ever bigger. It is spreading into the neighbors, they welcome them. And we continually give away little plants.

Sageyea. I use fresh sage leaves in the fall. They are silvery green and a bit fuzzy. A perennial, pretty planted in our flower garden.

Thyme-I could go either way here. I use purchased dried thyme frequently in cooking. But my lemon thyme plant has grown into a dense mat, close to the ground. So it is difficult to cut clean stems. Does this show laziness? I do love the smell as I am working around the plant though.


black cherry tomatoes photo by vsimon

Tomatoes-Amish Paste, Black Cherry, Black Kim, Mortgage Lifter, Garden Peach, Pineapple, Roma, Rose de Berne. Mostly yea.

Tomatillonay. I love fresh tomatillos and buy green ones from the market often. But these were purple. An unattractive greenish, grayish purple. I have seen some photos online of beautiful purple tomatillos. Ours were not.

tomatillo (3)

purple tomatillos photo by vsimon

This is our second unsuccessful attempt at tomatillos. The first time, every single one had a small worm in it. That is off-putting. It makes you wonder how much pesticide is sprayed on these. The ones in the market are not marked organic.

TurnipNAY!!!! We had a tremendous crop. But I have not been able to prepare these any way that makes them edible. I love most root veggies, but these are toooo strongly flavored of mustard and horseradish.

I brought some of these to the food pantry, it almost seemed mean. I asked the staff to please give these as extras, not as the only veggie.

Yellow crookneck squash-nay. They are easy, you will get a lot. They also ripen fast and furious. I just don’t like them well enough to plant again.

Gluten free grains– amaranth, flax, sorghum, teff. We actually grew gluten free grains! We’ll tell you about them in Thursday’s post.

See what I mean by abundance? We are very thankful for the harvest and the joy gardening gives us.

Do you garden? Will you try something new next year?