I’ve found that one of my favorite garden crops to grow is shell , or eating, beans. For one, they’re easy. There’s no rush to get them picked before they get old and woody like regular beans. Just plant, wait a few months, and harvest. Even here in Iowa this month, where we’re in the middle of the second wettest summer on record (statewide average of 23 inches of rain from June through now), we were able to let the beans dry completely in their pods on the plant and then just popped them out. It’s a great country-bumpkin feeling, sitting on your porch shelling beans into a bowl.
There’s a great element of surprise with shell beans, too. Something akin to the fun I had with harvesting some early potatoes this year, too. You never quite know what’s going to be waiting underground, or in the crusty, withered pod.
Most of all, though, I just think shell beans are beautiful. These are called Tiger’s Eye, and I got the seeds from nearby Seed Savers Exchange. There are many wonderful kinds of shell beans to choose from, and they all have such great names: Jacob’s Cattle, Calypso, Dutch Bullet, Lina Sisco’s Bird Egg. We only did the one kind this year, but I’m looking forward to trying some more next summer, maybe a row of Snow Caps right along side rows of Good Mother and Yellow Indian Woman.