Dry Bean History • Heirloom Dry Beans
Economical. An inexpensive, portable, conveniently stored food staple.
Easy to cook. They just need time. Soak them overnight and cook them in the crockpot, on the woodstove, or as bean hole beans in the ground!
Versatile. Great in bean soups, chilis, curries, refried, baked, sandwiches, and more. Try Midnight Black Turtles when you need strong flavor for Latin cooking; deliciously mild Cannellini for Italian bean soups; or Kenearly Yellow Eye for classic Maine baked beans.
$. They provide farmers with income in the winter months.
Of the commonly eaten food crops originating in the Americas, the dry bean may be the most historically significant. To early explorers and settlers, the Native American gift of the Three Sisters — corn, beans, and squash — meant survival, with the protein in the dry bean being, arguably, most crucial. Today the lowly, unassuming bean continues to fuel the lives of countless millions around the world.
Why put the time & effort into growing dry beans?
Greater diversity — and fun. Dry beans come in a range of colors and patterns. The stories behind their Old and New World origins and uses are fascinating, and they have a big following among seed savers. Read an excerpt on Heirloom Bean Varieties, from William Woys Weaver's book, Heirloom Vegetable Gardening, at Mother Earth News to learn more.
How can a small commercial grower make money on dry beans?
A grower needs to be sure to analyze production costs in view of what they can fetch for them. Here are some marketing advantages to consider.
Dry beans can round out your offerings at winter markets, when cash flow is tight.
Another marketing advantage of dry beans is that they are "fresher" than dry beans off the shelf at the supermarket. Dry beans used within a few months of harvest taste better and require less cooking time. Their flavor is more nuanced and full than older beans. Beans from the supermarket may be from the prior year's harvest, but they could even be several years old.
The assortment you can offer can be much less limited than what's on the shelf at the supermarket.