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Black Turtle Beans

There is evidence that the native people of what is now Peru and Mexico were cultivating beans nearly 9,000 years ago. Our families history with the bean is not nearly as established but about three years ago our family did begin growing black turtle beans in our garden. We ordered the seeds from Fedco-Seeds out of Waterville Maine.

There were a number of reasons that we began growing these particular beans. To begin with we eat a ton of rice and beans and it simply made sense financially to grow our own rather than paying a dollar a can multiple times a week. Second, who really knows where these beans are coming from that we are buying in the grocery store. Third, we wanted to attempt to increase our food storage for the fall and winter seasons. The majority of our garden provides fresh eating during spring, summer and even early fall but as we roll into the lean months aside from some popcorn, canned items and a small freezer full of veggies and fruit we are in a position to go back to the store for our food. So growing dried beans only makes sense.

Beans happen to be one of my favorite items to grow. I love the wide variety of seed. Visually speaking bean seeds really are beautiful. Of course there is also the wide variety of taste and use. Add to that the fact that beans tend to be rather easy to grow and save seed from and that they are a benefit to your soil by putting nitrogen back in and it would seem silly not to include them in your garden.

We grow the traditional three sisters, squash, corn and beans all interwoven together. In between our corn stalks you would find black turtle beans growing in abundance. We have recently begun harvesting the dried beans from their brittle pods. We did lose a few plants to mold this year. We had a very odd growing season in that it was rather cool most of the year, in fact 70 degrees Fahrenheit on July 4th! Then all of a sudden in late august we ended up with hot humid weather and a bunch of rain thus mold. Add to that the fact that turtle beans take nearly 100 days to run their cycle and a successful harvest in the short New York growing season is not always insured.

Harvesting the beans is an easy process though. We have a manageable sized garden so we are able to do everything by hand. We pick the dried pods and put them in a bucket. Then we come inside turn on the football game and remove the dried beans from the pod while we watch our favorite team lose!

Beans are extremely healthy, in fact there are rumors that they are a magical fruit. They contain folate, also known as vitamin B6, which is important for ones nervous system. They also contain soluble fiber which is particularly important in lowering blood cholesterol levels. Steady protein and fiber movement help control blood sugar spikes. Black turtle beans contain an anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are the antioxidant that blue and black fruit and legumes contain that help boost the immune system.

Easy to grow,  easy to store, healthy and delicious. . . no reason not to give them a try!  

 Tobias Whitaker blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. Click on the Mother Earth News logo at the bottom of the page for all of his post. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad found here


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