Boy, oh boy - the photo of my homegrown black beans in my last post has caused quite the stir so I thought I would share the very little I know about growing black beans with you.
Dried beans seem to be one of those things that nobody really thinks about growing. You head to the store or the co-op and buy them bagged or in bulk, take them home, clean through them, soak, and cook. It's pretty simple that way, really, but when I saw the packet of black beans for sale at my local gardening spot, I had to grab them.
GROW my own black beans? The hell you say. Really. I didn't know what to expect. The back of the package gave the usual spacing and depth instructions along with watering and light recommendations, but as any gardener knows, the packet tells so little.
I set them to seed in trays with the rest of my plants and then set them in the ground when it was time. The first surprise I had was the plant itself. It looks exactly like a blue lake bush bean and I had to be very careful about labeling so I would know which were which. Bush beans are one of the first successful vegetables I had ever grown and I look forward to them each year. No matter what else I'm growing, I must have green beans in the garden. The difference is, and I found this out quickly, black beans are like pole beans because they climb. I jabbed stakes into the ground and let them wind their way up.
I watered as I did my green beans, not too much, not too little. I set them in a sunny, but not too sunny, spot (vague enough for you?) and watched them grow.
The second surprise was the flower. Again, they look exactly like bush beans, but PURPLE! The first sight of one of those flowers was a truly breathtaking moment. As soon as I caught my breath I said, "Of course! Black beans have purple flowers!" Because, in reality, black beans aren't really black, they are a very deep purple. This can be seen any time they are soaked.
Then came the pods, which - again - looked like bush beans. Ever so slowly, though, they changed color and nearly looked like they were rotting. I was concerned. What if they were too done? WHEN were they done? Did I need to dry them once they were picked? Of course, I knew where the answer was: Google.
Sure enough I found that black beans are not ever really "fresh" because they are left on the plant to fully dry and darken. I popped open a pod and to my horror the beans within were snow white except at the very edge, where they were beginning to turn purple. Aha! They TURN black as they dry!
Black beans in the pod.
So, I mustered up all the patience I could and let them alone. Sure enough, before I knew it each pod was full of hard black beans. Wow. Just wow. Now I have bushes full of drying black bean pods and once I harvest them and cook up something splendid I'll be sure and post it!