Bean expert John Withee recommends growing Jacob's Cattle first, followed by Soldier, Yellow Eye, or Red Kidney. He relegates the Pea bean to the bottom of the barrel. ``They don't have the feel in the mouth,'' he says, while the Jacob's Cattle is a ``very pretty and excellent baking bean.'' Mr. Withee knows beans: He grew 240 varieties one year.

Beans have a long shelf life, but that has disadvantages, too: Store-bought beans may be up to three years old, and take longer to cook. Fresh lima beans are especially good, says Withee, and they make great baked bean, he says.

Beans need warm soil, and are usually the last vegetable to be planted, Withee says. Don't plant them until a thermometer stuck three inches into the soil registers at least 65 degrees F.

Leave the beans on the plant until the pods are dry and brittle, he says. Careful: Some beans will hold their seeds in the pod, but others may break open spontaneously and broadcast their seeds, he says.

Make sure the pods are dry before you thrash them (remove beans from pods).

Here is a partial list of bean suppliers:

Seeds Blum, Idaho City Stage, Boise, ID 83706.

Redwood City Seed Co., P.O. Box 361, Redwood City, CA 94064.

Johnny's Select Seeds, Foss Hill Rd., Albion, ME 04910.

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