If you’re looking to grow some good quality storage crops for winter soups and stews, beans are a great choice. But which ones, and why? We talked to Jodi Roebuck about his top 3 beans to grow in a biointensive system.
Jodi is a biointensive homesteader + grazier near Taranaki in New Zealand, and he knows his beans.
His family’s small holding, Roebuck Farm, grows most of their food throughout the year through a combination of biointensive annual vegetables and holistically managed sheep flocks, which Jodi rotates through neighbouring properties, regenerating pastures as he (and the sheep) pass through.
Jodi grows a lot of beans for both seed and also winter eating, but on a busy farm this means growing only the best for the purpose – efficiency is big at this hand-tilled farm, in terms of crop selection, growing technique, and harvesting too.
Who better to give advice on which beans to grow if you’re serious about growing a large amount of storable food –
“We grow dwarf bush varieties – at our scale growing vertical types (runner or pole beans) requires too much set up.
I am a big fan of the dry bean – it’s a resilient short season crop, it’s a low feeder, easy to grow, harvest and clean, stores for years, and doesn’t cross pollinate.
We find beans to be very versatile in our family’s diet, no wonder it’s a hit with the Mexicans! Beans are truly a stable of our diet along with lamb. We suggest to those wanting to “grow all their grains” that they start with legumes.”
All the beans below can be eaten as a fresh podded green bean, as a green ‘shell out’ where you remove the bean from the pod and eat it green, and as a dry shell out, or storage bean.
Some varieties however “string up’ quicker than others, giving a shorter harvest window for fresh beans.
The main Kidney bean we grow is called Kaiapoi – it’s a dwarf bush bean.
It’s got a large elongated seed (usually dark in colour) with a vigorous set of fruit. It usually grows with a a green pod, and produces a “mealy/hearty” dry bean.
The Pinto type we grow is called the ‘NZ Horticultural Dwarf Bush Bean’.
Another good crop with vigour, best eaten as a flat pod as when pods swell they becomes stringy. Visually stunning, often a two tone pod with a two tone seed. The “creamyiest dry bean” and the most consumed on our farm by far.
Dahl type beans
Our variety is called Yellow Dwarf Bush Bean, typically called a yellow bean or butter bean and eaten as fresh pod with a long harvest window.
Doesn’t string up and is a hit with the kids. Chances are there will be none left for seed! The seed is smaller, often dark and works well used in dahls, hummus or slow cooked dishes
Before planting anything, grade the seed removing swollen, shrunken,water damaged and tiny seed
If the type you’re working with is rare seed, or has low germination, or early season we prefer to transplant. There’s many benefits here from selecting the germinators, season extension by using seed trays, and water savings by watering tray rather than bed.
We plant 3 successions of each variety finishing at the longest day if wanting dry seed harvest, for fresh beans continue planting another month dependant on climate.
Most often we direct seed once soil temps are up to 16c using the planting ruler and the offsett pattern (more info ont hat biointensive growing technique here).
Nothing beats using your own seed. We poke the seed in 30mm deep as per the 15cm marks on the ruler moving down the bed using the triangulation or offsett pattern.
We dont cover the seed up, but water immediately and cover with a 70% shade net till germination lifts the net up. Beware of leaving the shade net on too long as the crop will go leggy and be weakened.
Before the crop covers the ground, weed once in the heat of the day by hand and job done. Harvest a few fresh beans then leave the crop to dry off.
Cull any plants that aren’t performing during the season we use the motto “keep the best eat the rest, if in doubt chuck it out.”
Most dwarf dry beans take about 110 days seed to seed.
We usually harvest 3-4 kg from 100 square feet. This is from 420 plants/seed per 100 square foot bed.
Total time dedicated to crop: including biointensive bed prep (refreshing, not making one from scratch), planting and harvesting, the time dedicated to 1 bed is about 2 hours total, not including watering time.
Harvesting Dry beans
Harvesting should be done in the heat of the afternoon, once all dew has definitely dried.
Once all leaves have dropped off and the pods rattle but haven’t shattered, harvest the whole plant by cutting stem above ground and piling on a sheet.
Leave any plants that haven’t fully matured or you will compromise germination the following season (if saving for seed).
Store in green house, or in sunlight out of the weather, at approx 30c for five days then give a seed ‘the bite’ test.
The bite test is what it sounds like – bite a seed and if there’s no indent from your teeth, it’s dry and ready…
Place all your pods on a big sheet on hard ground, and place another sheet on top.
Now for the fun part- jump on the seed in the sheet – stomping and grinding, wearing boots. You wont hurt the seed.
Seed will easily shell out and settle in the bottom of your sheet.
Remove the dry pods and your beans are now ready to pour out into a bucket and then be winnowed from bucket to bucket over a sheet in a mild breeze to remove the last of the plant material/chaff.
Store away from light or temp fluctuations in airtight buckets or jars.
- The Better Bean Book – Jenny Chandler
- Bean by Bean – Cresent Dragonwagon
- The Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Grower’s Guide – Steve Sando
- Open source seed cleaner plans for the technically minded