Some of the pods yellowed and dried on the vines, making colorful beans for either drying and planting, or cooking and eating.

I grew 1500-year-old cave beans in both my home garden and at the community garden as a part of the three sisters’ companion planting method. The beans really needed a 10-foot teepee support system, but out of a total of four plants, we yielded two shopping bags full of green beans. Only a few of the bean pods were able to reach full maturity before the threat of freezing temperatures persuaded us to harvest immediately.

In Waterville, you don't mess around with the weather. We do have a weather station, which I monitor carefully, especially in spring and autumn for frost and freezes. Normally we would have until the end of October or early November to continue growing, but the prognostication algorithms showed us hitting temps of 28°F at night for this week.

I had already cleared out my Community Garden bed, but here at home we still had pumpkins on the vine, green beans, bok choy, and napa cabbage.


An overflowing bowl of freshly harvested 1500-year-old cave beans.

I definitely want to grow these beans again, but properly, giving them lots of things to climb on, starting them earlier, and hopefully getting a dried bean crop out of it. I actually was surprised at how many beans we did end up picking. It might be a good idea to have a few plants just for green beans because the more beans you pick, the more you get.

The dried beans are supposed to make the best pot of beans you will ever taste. The beans are purplish-brown and white and remind me of the coloring of the beautiful pinto horse. They apparently cook more quickly than regular pinto beans and have a sweet, full flavor. They can even turn pink when you cook them, and probably will give you less gas because they contain fewer complex carbohydrates.

So the saying, “Beans, beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot” may not apply here.

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