Beans are in the legume family, which also includes alfalfa, clover, lentils, peanuts, peas, and snow peas. Some beans are picked green and eaten as complete pods; others are shelled and dried for storage and later use. It is thought that beans have been harvested and cultivated for thousands of years, and some varieties are native to Asia & Europe, some to the Americas.
Beans fall into two main groups: those that are picked green (generally referred to as green beans, snap beans, or string beans), include dozens of specific varieties. Other beans are usually picked when mature, then shelled and dried; these include chickpeas and adzuki, black, blackeye, kidney, lima, navy, pinto, red, & soy beans .
Harvest season in the LV: July through October
Growing conditions: beans are a summer crop and need warm temperatures and good sunlight. Because legumes fix nitrogen from the air they grow even in poor soils. Indigenous people often grew beans, corn, and squash together (‘the three sisters’) because the beans provided nitrogen, the corn formed a support for the bean vines, and the corn & beans also provided partial shade to shelter the squash and reduce evaporation from the soil. Some grow on vines that need a pole or other structure for support, while others grow on self-supporting bushes.
Pollination: Some varieties self-pollinate but most have much higher yields with insect pollinators, including honeybees & bumblebees.
Cooking/Preparation required: While fresh-picked peas & snap beans are often eaten raw or steamed for just a few minutes, dried beans require longer cooking periods so they can soften and absorb water.
Fertilizers or pesticides: Beans grow well without any need for pesticides. Commercial growers often use herbicides such as glyphosate, which pollute the soil & water — and the food itself.
Health considerations: High in protein, complex carbohydrates, beta-carotene, vitamin K & C, as well as antioxidants. Dry beans contain a variety of flavonoids & lignans that promote health.
Nutrient content can vary greatly depending on soil conditions, with organic methods and a soil rich in organic matter generally producing the best results.
‘Dirty Dozen’ or ‘Clean Fifteen’ lists do not necessarily apply to produce grown on local farms — you need to check with the farmer to determine if and when any fertilizers or pesticides were applied.