Friday, January 16, 2009
Busy Little Hands - The last of the summer beans
"Depodding" the last of the summer beans - this variety was a green dwarf snap bean, which were left until they went to seed. The seeds are brown in colour. I have already used them up and made a tasty vegetarian Nachos sauce.
This variety is called "Purble King". It's a climbing bean. As the name suggests the beans are a deep purble, but when you cook them they turn green. When you leave the beans on the plant, they naturally go to seed and dry off, so that you then can pick them and use the seeds. The seeds of these beans are a light in colour. I have not used them yet, but I think I will make a delicious Chilli Con Carne. Some of the seeds I keep and as I will plant this variety again at the beginning of next month for an autumn crop.
History of the Bean
Beans are one of the longest-cultivated plants, broad beans having been grown at least since ancient Egypt, and the common bean for six thousand years in the Americas.
Many modern dry beans come from old-world varieties of broad beans, but most of the kinds commonly eaten fresh come from the Americas, being first seen by Christopher Columbus during his conquest of a region of what may have been the Bahamas, where they were grown in fields.
One especially famous use of beans by pre-Columbian people is the Three Sisters method of companion plant cultivation:
On the east coast of what would come to be called the United States, some tribes would grow maize (corn), beans, and squash intermingled together, a system which had originated in Mexico. The corn would not be planted in rows as it is today, but in a checkerboard/hex fashion across a field, separate patches of one to four stalks each.
Beans would be planted around the base of the developing stalks, and would vine their way up as the stalks grew. All American beans at that time were vine plants, "bush beans" having only been bred more recently. The cornstalks would work as a trellis for the beans, and the beans would provide much-needed nitrogen for the corn.
Squash would then be planted in the spaces between the patches of corn in the field. They would be provided slight shelter from the sun by the corn, and would deter many animals from attacking the corn and beans, because their coarse, hairy vines and broad, stiff leaves are difficult or uncomfortable for animals like deer and raccoons to walk through, crows to land on, et cetera.
Beans were an important alternative source of protein throughout old and new world history, and still are today. There are over 4,000 cultivars of bean on record in the United States, alone.
An interesting modern example of the diversity of bean use is 15 bean soup, which, as the name implies, contains literally fifteen different varieties of bean. Source Wikipedia.