We’ve had a fun week bringing in fall crops. There are some crops that we harvest a little bit of throughout the season as needed, like kale, tomatoes, peppers, etc. And there are other crops that we plant once and harvest all at one time, like dry beans. Of all of the crops we grow on the farm, I especially like dry beans. They are a very practical crop. Beans are especially easy to grow because they germinate and stand tall pretty fast (compared to other slower germinating crops, like carrots.) This makes it really easy to weed them, because you can get in the field sooner with a hoe than you could otherwise. The beans are a legume, which means they have a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen fixing bacteria, and therefore do not need a lot of added nutrients. They’re pretty independent! Once you plant them and weed them once or twice, you just forget about them, until they start to dry. You can harvest them whenever you want. Unlike tomatoes...when a tomato is ripe, you must pick it, or it will rot. But a dry bean you can harvest when you have the time! They are very considerate plants. Once you do harvest them, you don’t even have to process them right away! Dry beans are actually the seeds in the pod of the bean, and to get to the bean, you must break open the pod and separate the plant debris from the seed. We usually do this by covering the ground with a tarp and putting a big pile of dry bean plants on top. Then we have a dance party. In the past we’ve invited elementary aged kids out to the farm to dance the day away. We turn the music on loud and stomp to our hearts content! The stomping breaks open the pods, releasing the seeds. On a windy day we take a bucket of separated beans and plants and pour them into another bucket three feet below. The wind carries the chaf away, and the heavy seed falls into our bucket. A few more times, and the beans are cleaned and ready to be eaten. They store well, for years really. The same beans can be planted for next years crop. Or they can be eaten. And thats another thing I love about them, they're so healthy to eat-they’re rich in protein and essential amino acids.
One of the bean varieties (our best producing variety) we grow is an heirloom variety that my friend, Victor, brought across the Mexican border illegally when he and his family crossed into America. He made his way to Northfield and grew vegetables in a community garden plot at Seeds Farm. He left Mexico with a single handful of beans, some food and a few other posessions. In Northfield, he grew out that handful of beans and harvested a bucketful. Of that bucketful, he gave me a handful. I planted my handful and grew that over the years into pounds upon pounds. These beans aren’t ready for this weeks share, but soon you’ll see them in your box.
The picture above is of our greenhouse, full of drying "things". Piles of dry beans, tables of onions and garlic drying.