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Dry bean varieties/sources

 
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Hello all,

This is a pretty basic question even though I'm not quite a beginning gardener. But not sure where else would be better to post it.

Any recommendations on dry bean varieties? I'm in Iowa. I tried dry beans for the first time last year. I grew both black and pinto which are probably what I'm interested in again.

I didn't do too much research on specific varieties last year -- just got whatever I could find available with the seed shortage. I ended up purchasing both black and pinto bean seeds from Reimer Seeds.

The black beans grew and yielded well but I wasn't overly impressed with their taste. The pinto beans scrambled around -- it appeared they wanted to vine even though they were sold as bush.

Any recommendations on sources for dry bean seed? I'm thinking that I prefer bush although am open to arguments about why pole would be better.
 
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 I think you should go to the supermarket and find out what beans have the flavors you like.  I like lima and great northern etc...
Next I would maybe talk to a few local farmers and see what grows well in your climate.  We have very hot humid conditions here so I cannot give any advice on that.
I get my seed from Hoss tools but they are local to my area, you should have a few local seed companies near you. A local farmer should help on that too.
A lot of bush beans tend to have that vining trait, it often shows up for me too.
I grow both bush and pole beans. Bush beans put out a little faster and about 2 harvest is what I get. Pole beans give a lot more over a longer season but should be trellised.

 
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A favorite source:  https://www.vermontbean.com/

We are a bit similar in climate, though farther north outside of Fargo, ND.  Pintos are so plentiful we tend not to grow them....North Dakota is the #1 state in the nation in dry bean production and pintos are pretty high on that list.  Pretty much narrowed it down to Cranberry Beans for home production ( https://www.vermontbean.com/category/s?keyword=Cranberry )....for texture, flavor, and productivity, they do well for us and we like them better than pintos.  Perhaps it's due to home selection over many years, but our cranberry's now are more red with white variegation rather than white with red variegation.  I suspect there is a study out there somewhere on the difference between pole beans and bush beans with respect to white mold.  If you don't have white mold in your snap/dry beans now, it may end up creeping into your production in the future and it's an irritation to deal with.  Pole beans *may* be better in this respect as white mold is favored by warm, humid weather, made worse by excessive damp periods during heat.  (Have not checked recently to see if bean seed has started being sold with a white mold resistance rating.)

See https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/fieldcroppathology/soybean_pests_diseases/white_mold/
 
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I am a huge fan of Carol Deppe's Beefy Resilient Bean Grex which has a meaty rich flavor and makes a great substitute for black beans. The mix contains small black, brown, golden, and sometimes white seeds. It is a bush type bean and is available from Resilient Seed.
Dry Bush Bean- Beefy Resilient

If you like red beans I had great success with Hidatsa Red from https://www.prairieroadorganic.co/collections/beans-peas
They also carry Nodak Pinto. "Incredibly early and productive, this bean is easy to grow. Nodak has a vine type growth habit and is resistant to bean rusts present in North Dakota."

I have two other suggestions for bean sources
1. Cheapest option: Buy a bag of each bean your interested in from your grocery store and plant those out.
2. More expense: Buy varieties from specialty bean sellers such as Ranch Gordo  https://www.ranchogordo.com/collections/heirloom-beans or
   North Bay Trading Co.   https://www.northbaytrading.com/beans-lentils/beans/  
   Both of these companies sell beans in 1 pound or greater packages for eating. You can try several varieties of non-commodity grown beans. Cook some up and see which you prefer.
 
Brian Rumsey
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Thanks to each of you who have replied so far. Some good ideas to follow up on!
 
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One of my favourite dry beans came from a package of what was supposed to be Kentucky wonder wax. The bean pods were really tough with big strings and different shades of yellow and green. Not what I would expect of kww. The seeds were all different shades of black, grey, brown, yellow, and cooked down into a tasty broth. So good dry beans can come from anywhere.

My favourite black bean is black coco.

I really like nez perce. Early, high yielding, tasty.

Papa de rola is one of the prettiest beans I've grown.
 
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I highly recommend Lofthouse Dry Bush Bean, which can be purchased from Experimental Farm Network.

An inexpensive way to get a lot of bean seed, is to plant 15 bean soup mix that the grocery stores sell.

bean-mosaic.jpg
Lofthouse Dry Bush Bean
Lofthouse Dry Bush Bean
 
Brian Rumsey
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I am appreciating the continued replies. John -- yes, you are right about how common pintos are. At this point I am growing more for the fulfillment i derive from growing my own beans, rather than trying to produce varieties that are not available easily for retail purchase. (Though I could easily go down the path of more uncommon varieties -- especially if taste is discovered to be better!) I am especially cooking a lot of Mexican dishes which has led me to the pintos and black beans.
 
John Weiland
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Denise S.   Thanks for the reminder about Prairie Road Organics.  Had not seen their packets locally in the past two years....glad to see they are still in business.

Joseph..... Can't recall if you have a logo for your operation?..... You should either take it upon your creative self or commission a local artist to produce a logo that you could display at your market stands....a logo made with those many beans!  What a beautiful display those would make.
 
Denise Spencer
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I highly recommend Lofthouse Dry Bush Bean, which can be purchased from Experimental Farm Network.

An inexpensive way to get a lot of bean seed, is to plant 15 bean soup mix that the grocery stores sell.



What a beautiful photo of those glorious beans!

Thanks for letting us know where the Lofthouse Bean is being sold. I purchased it from you several years ago and still plant it out every year.

Also, I thought I had read that you used beans from the soup mix in your landrace, but I couldn't find the info to quote you. 😀

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Three of the beans in the above photo may have arrived in a bag of 15 bean soup. A fourth bean came from a bag of beans from the Mexican food store.

About 40% of the beans in that photo may be unique to my garden. Descendants of naturally occurring hybrids.

logo_640.png
Logo, such as it is...
Logo, such as it is...
 
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I'm not a fan of bush beans, they just don't do well in my climate. I am working on a landrace of "semi-runner" beans. That is they do climb but only to five feet or so rather than the giant vines of more common pole beans.

Great thing about a nice landrace is you never know what might show up. I have two, actually maybe more than two in my landrace of semi-runners that I'm sure came from the Lofthouse landrace. I say maybe more than two, because I think one of them may have segregated but I don't keep good enough track to know for sure.  

That kind of flat looking white one, top middle in Joseph's photo may be the one that segregated, they are different colors and almost look like Lima beans to me but definitely are not. Interestingly the solid white kind of culled it's self out for the most part after a few seasons.

That purplish speckle one top right in the photo, or one that looks like it, is one of my favorite beans, gets about three or four feet tall and makes lots of early beans. Then it grows up  side shoots from towards the bottom of the stem and makes a bunch more beans. It's very similar in growth habit to a very old heirloom called Refugee. Another of my favorites, again with a similar growth habit is a Pinto bean from a store bought soup mix. All of these and their offspring as well as lots of others are becoming somewhat dominate in mine as I favor the short climbing growth habit and short season maturity.

If you want an idea of what is available in the bean department take a look here, Bean Collector Window.


 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I really like the semi-runner beans. I lump them in with the bush beans. They are more productive for me than bush beans, but a bit longer season, which makes harvest problematic some years. I think that there are 4 types of vines in common beans. I only select against the super-long vines that twist tightly around things (that's the type that I call pole beans). The floppy vines that just lay on top of things are really nice! I grow beans sprawling on the ground.
 
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I love growing beans, but don't like the taste of most dry beans. Beefy Resilient Grex is an exception. The flavor is 100% unadulterated umami. When used in a savory dish, it really does taste like beef. When used in a sweet dish, the flavor is a little harder to describe. It falls somewhere between "whey" and "almond milk", but the result is a rich, hearty undertone that doesn't clash with the topnote flavors.
 
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Denise Spencer wrote:
2. More expense: Buy varieties from specialty bean sellers such as Ranch Gordo  https://www.ranchogordo.com/collections/heirloom-beans or


I just got my package of Rancho Gordo beans and oh my goodness they are BEAUTIFUL!  I'm going to try and germinate some.  If they are fresh enough to germinate (which I'm guessing they are) then, while they are expensive for eating beans, they will be very inexpensive as planting seed.  I tell you, I'm super excited by the package.  Thank you so much Denise for turning me on to them.
 
Greg Martin
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Just ran across this thread and realized I never came back to update on germination success...yes, the Rancho Gordo runner beans that I bought did indeed have a high germination rate.
 
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Hello fellow Iowan!
I grew up in central Iowa though I have family in both North West Iowa and the Cedar Falls-Cedar Rapids vicinity.  Everyone in my family gardens, and I'm going to go out on a limb here as I now live in southern Mexico and say you didn't like the black beans because you don't know how to properly season them, heavens knows I sure didn't until I received the secret instructions from my sisters-in-law. But that's a whole other story.

I'm glad to hear you have germinated some quality beans and hope the harvest was good.
 
Greg Martin
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Melissa Ferrin wrote: don't know how to properly season them, heavens knows I sure didn't until I received the secret instructions from my sisters-in-law. But that's a whole other story.


You can tell us Melissa....your secret is safe with us!  
 
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I agree with all the suggestions above, but I especially enjoy shopping at places like Russ Crow's web page.
 
Melissa Ferrin
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Greg Martin wrote:

Melissa Ferrin wrote: don't know how to properly season them, heavens knows I sure didn't until I received the secret instructions from my sisters-in-law. But that's a whole other story.


You tell us Melissa....your secret is safe with us!  



I started a cooking thread on the topic.

https://permies.com/t/175352/kitchen/Cooking-black-beans-Oaxacan-style
 
Greg Martin
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Thank you Melissa!
 
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I've bought from Native Seed SEARCH (https://www.nativeseeds.org/) in the past, and they were easy to work with.  Mostly arid-adapted varieties, and it seems like a good cause.  
 
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The Vermont bean company is also a great one for me. They have quite a few varieties of beans.
My understanding is that Jung's in Wisconsin may have acquired the Vermont Bean company. At least, they were giving away their catalogs at the Garden Expo in Madison [WI] last week, so I should be able to get more great beans locally..
Since I'm growing old, I tend to prefer pole beans, whether for snap or dry: Once the trellis is up it is very easy to plop some seeds at the base and watch them grow. Even if there is a serious rain episode, my pole beans won't get all gritty from the sand being splashed up. It beats kneeling on all 4s to retrieve the beans too. There is a great deal of variety, and as legumes, they *enrich* your soil to boot. Whether to try the 3 sisters with Sunflowers or Corn, you are growing your own trellis. Just make sure you give the corn/ sunflowers a head start! Putting pole beans for dry beans in the 3 sisters also means that you won't be disturbing  the vines to much since you have to wait for the beans to be dry.
This year, I will be trying Lima beans [phaseolus lunata] for the first time, alongside my regular blue lake pole beans [phaseolus vulgaris]
I've also tried the yard long vigna inguiculata. [red noodle] They are quite prolific but in a dry season, the yard long beans are more like twigs and not particularly tasty. [They are easy to can, though!]
Also I will try cow peas, another vigna unguiculata, but they look "fatter" than the "yard longs".
 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I highly recommend Lofthouse Dry Bush Bean, which can be purchased from Experimental Farm Network.

An inexpensive way to get a lot of bean seed, is to plant 15 bean soup mix that the grocery stores sell.



I planted a a nice dark red kidney bean last two years, similar to the ones to right on picture.
 
Michael Moreken
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Tom Worley wrote:I've bought from Native Seed SEARCH (https://www.nativeseeds.org/) in the past, and they were easy to work with.  Mostly arid-adapted varieties, and it seems like a good cause.  



Didn't find dark red kidney beans on this website...
 
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Greg Martin wrote:Just ran across this thread and realized I never came back to update on germination success...yes, the Rancho Gordo runner beans that I bought did indeed have a high germination rate.



I'm doing the same thing with some Rancho Gordo beans!  I liked having enough to taste them first.  And I second the comment that though they are spendy as food, they are cheap as planting seed. Right!

Here are two more really good bean sources:

For variety, hard to beat Great Lakes Staple Seeds: Great Lakes Staple Seeds - Legumes - Beans, Peas, & More!

Also Sandhill Preservation Center: Pole and Bush beans for shelling, plus unusual varieties like Appalachian "fall beans", Fava beans, and a wide variety of Asian beans

Sandhill has some very hard to find beans, like drought tolerant mat (moth) beans from India, black gram (also tends to be used in Indian cuisine), mung beans, and drought tolerant tepary beans in a few types (a southwestern US native).
 
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I'm happy to see people talking about semi-runners. Somehow the convention has become to designate everything either bush or pole, and that framework has obscured the reality in the garden.  In fact, most of the older heirlooms seem to be at least a bit viney compared to modern bush beans.

I understand that the vining trait is dominant, so bush beans--like bush squash, bush peas, and bush tomatoes--are mutations that have been concentrated and selected by breeders. In wild or semi-wild conditions, a vine has a better chance against weeds, shrubs, and other competitors. Pole beans are higher-yielding if you have the labor available for not only the trellis but the harvest, which can be very time-consuming at a time of year when the weather is chancy. Like everything else, the best choice depends on your situation. I find I like pole beans for fresh snap beans that produce all season, are easy to reach, and have great flavor, but bush beans for dry beans that mature reliably and can be harvested quickly in the fall. Will Bonsall's book from Chelsea Green has a great discussion of bush and pole bean growing techniques.

The semi-runner habit can be handy in the garden, if you are prepared for it. It gives the potential for a higher yield than a straight bush bean, but less labor than setting tall poles and trellis. Tomato cages--which aren't up to the weight of an indeterminate tomato vine--might be a useful self-supporting low trellis. Most pinto strains I know of are semi-runners, and the Beefy Resilient Grex is too.

Carol Deppe has done further work to make the Beefy Resilient Beans less viney, more upright, and more compact.  She now has lines that are fully bush for less labor, earlier finish and fewer mold problems from contact with wet soil. At the same time she has bred the colors into separate lines, which have different flavor profiles for different purposes. She calls them Beef-Bush Black, Beef-Bush Gold, etc. I'm not aware of anyone who carries the gold, brown, or white lines, but Quail Seeds has the black. It truly does taste like beef, and the cooking water tastes like beef broth.  

On the opposite end of the flavor spectrum are the very mild flavored beans, with less assertive flavors good in lots of different recipes. Further  distinctions have to do with texture: the potato-like texture of Calypso is very different from the creamy texture of Hutterite, which makes a smooth soup. My personal favorites are those rare beans that have a creamy texture but hold together well. Of these, Mayo de Coba (Resilient Seeds) and King City Pink (Quail Seeds) are supreme.  Italian Borlotto beans provide a happy medium of traits, making them a good choice for small gardens. Borlotto del Valdarno, available at both Adaptive Seeds and Quail Seeds, is high-yielding, early, and very versatile in cooking.

Heirloom beans definitely have the edge in flavor.  (Besides, who can resist  trying rarities like Kebarika from Kenya (Southern Exposure Seeds),  Oland Swedish (Adaptive Seeds,) or Yessica's Inca Bean (Quail Seeds.)   On the other hand, modern production varieties often have been selected for resistance to specific diseases and for staying in the pod when ripe. (Some older types may have pods that crack open and have to be harvested as they ripen.) University of CA at Davis has a new program to breed disease-resistant strains of old heirlooms. If you have had disease problems with your beans, it is worth looking for bean varieties from your state's ag college  or university.  NoDak Pinto from the University of N. Dakota is an example of a reliable high-quality release from our land-grant universities. (Available from Redwood, Resilient, Quail, and Prairie Road Seeds)

I'm in Northern California, so heirlooms from my region like King City Pink and Round Valley Bush are trouble-free, as are beans from Italy like Pellegrini, Scalzo Italian, and Borlotto.  All of these are adapted to a dry-summer climate with cold nights. People with warm nights and summer humidity might want varieties from places with that kind of climate, and might do well to look to sources like the Seed Saver's Exchange (Iowa), Southern Exposure (Virginia), and others people have mentioned.  Carol Deppe's varieties seem to do well everywhere, since she breeds specifically for resilience in stressful conditions of all sorts.




 
Mark Reed
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Jamie Chevalier wrote:
The semi-runner habit can be handy in the garden, if you are prepared for it. It gives the potential for a higher yield than a straight bush bean, but less labor than setting tall poles and trellis. Tomato cages--which aren't up to the weight of an indeterminate tomato vine--might be a useful self-supporting low trellis. Most pinto strains I know of are semi-runners, and the Beefy Resilient Grex is too.



I love the semi-runner growth habit. I don't have to build and move all those big trellises like for the large vine beans. Even just some sticks shoved in the ground will work for the semi-runners. I wish I could grow bush beans and I do some for green beans, but my climate isn't friendly for a dry harvest from bush types.  With the heavy rains and wind, we get I end up harvesting as much mud and mold as beans. I've started planting quick season semi-runners on corn stalks after the corn is starting to dry down, I strip off most of the leaves and put a couple beans by each stalk, it's working pretty well.

Ha, I just last evening, found some of Carol's Beefy Resilient that I had forgotten I had. It's a mix up of all the colors, definitely gonna put them in the ground this year! Especially since you say they too have the semi-runner habit.  
 
Denise Spencer
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Mark Reed wrote:

Ha, I just last evening, found some of Carol's Beefy Resilient that I had forgotten I had. It's a mix up of all the colors, definitely gonna put them in the ground this year! Especially since you say they too have the semi-runner habit.  



You will love them.  Beefy Resilient is my favorite bean. I love the rich flavor. Also, They are pretty prolific even in my garden which only receives about four hours of direct sunlight daily.
Each bean seed comes true to color, so you can create your own self segregated mix if you prefer one color over the other.
 
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In my climate I need to hill bush snap and dry bean plants and then as the plants size up I trap the rows on each side with stakes and 1"x 2" lumber horizontal runners to keep plants upright and off the ground.  When I do this I have minimal mold and pod rot issues and consistently get very nice harvests.  Bush beans have always been my maincrop beans for snap, shell, and dry.  I cull out the semi viners as they occasionally appear by saving seeds and moving them into my semi viner mix.

I have a love/hate relationship with semi viners, I really like them as long as I plant them along the garden fenceline or run a similar horizontal support as the bush beans to get them off the ground.  I get very good yields from semi viners this way, if the plants are allowed to sprawl on the ground I get mostly mold and rot.  I have a developing landrace of semi viners where I am culling out any plant that vines more than 3 feet (these plants the seeds get moved to my half runner landrace).  My semi viners seem to be mostly useful as dry beans.  I have only one strain so far that is decent as a stringless snap, none I consider decent as a shelly so far.

I grow half runners, P. vulgaris plants that tend to vine around 3-5 feet.  I am liking them more and more as the years go by and am starting to see some very nice results regarding yield, pod quality, flavor, harvest duration, disease resistance.  They are decent for snap and dry.  I may soon relegate my pole beans to secondary status in favor of half runners.

Pole beans are my least favorite for production but I admit they are still a work in progress for me.  They seem to need a longer growing time to get to production than any other bean type I grow, and I do not quite understand why.  I grow standard height snap, shell, and dry pole beans that seem to be rather mediocre regarding production but have decent disease resistance.  I also have shell and dry pole bean strains that reach 12+ feet in height that have excellent production and disease resistance but I have to harvest with a ladder (yes I actually have a twelve feet tall bean trellis).  I would abandon these tall pole strains but they have some of the best production, yield, overall quality, and disease resistance of any of the beans I grow.  They are also some of the best for shellies.  Go figure...

So why do I grow all these types?  Because I want deep diversity.  Because they serve different purposes.  Because they all have their main production at different plant heights making for more efficient use of the different trellis options I have, production/harvest comes at staggered times, and the different types allow me to crop them as "fill in" for unused areas based on plant height and the shade that is thrown mid season.  Also, snap, shell, and dry beans are one of the three primary, critical vegetable food sources for me so I always grow backups on backups to ensure a successful harvest of at least something every year.  (My three critical vegetable food sources are maincrop tomatoes, Irish potatoes, and P. vulgaris snap, shell, dry beans.  If this is all I could grow I would still do just fine.)

All the dry bean types or seed beans I harvest pods as they dry down, once a week or just before the next rain.  Beans that naturally dry down in the field and harvested at peak make for the best quality and best keeping food grade beans, and the best quality seed beans that keep extremely well in storage.  Harvesting in this manner is more work, but I do not believe in taking shortcuts.  Shortcuts always have a price attached.

Maybe folks will find this interesting.  Photo shows two selections from 2021 that came from my Purple Dove P. vulgaris beans, a rather old natural landrace strain that consistently shoots out both bush and semi vining variants in a ratio approximately 50/50.  During the 2021 harvest I found these variants while harvesting Purple Dove pods, one with a dark green hue dissimilar from any Purple Dove seed I have ever harvested, another with a pretty dark blue mottling around the hilum.  Both plants were feeble and not very productive, this seed is all I got.  Both plants were semi vining, vines only reaching maybe two feet in length at most.  The fact that the plants were weak and feeble has no bearing on my opinion of them because it has been my experience that plant vigor and production will greatly advance after the first generation with these new landrace variants.  I plan on doing isolated growouts of these two strains in 2022 to see what happens, if they do well some seeds will go back into my Purple Dove seed bag and some seeds will go into my semi viner proto landrace.  Time will tell if they hold any value but one must be patient and keep an open mind.  This is what I have fun with, this is why folks really need to pay attention to what is going in in their gardens in order to find such opportunities.


 
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