Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The story of a bean

We slowly grew into our current urban farm/food preserving life. My mother and grandmother did a marathon canning every year when I was a child.( My mother hated to cook) The dark, enclosed room behind the furnace was a store of row upon row of jars filled with seasonal goodness. (My father grew the garden but never ate a vegetable other than once year when he ate canned, stewed tomatoes with canned milk) When my children were young I gardened and preserved everything I could find and we ate and enjoyed it.

Years passed and I met the love of my life and began to garden and preserve again. My husband began to show more than a passing interest in what was coming in from the garden and took the Master Food Preserver course through WSU. Today we are North Bank Urban Farm and Tworivers Food. It has been quite a journey.

I told you that to tell you this. My husband is very fond of chili con carne. At some point I got out the crockpots and began to make vast amounts which we ate and he canned. Over time it evolved to a chili made with black and Anasazi beans with bison. After a couple of years we noticed it was getting difficult to find the Anasazi beans. I did some research and learned that there had been a crop failure. Red flags went off in my mind and I decided that we should try to grow Anasazi beans.

Anasazi Beans

What are Anasazi beans? Named after the cliff-dwelling Native Americans who lived in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona in the first millennium, these are a small to medium size bean, colored a purplish red and white with a mild flavor that cook more quickly than other beans. The Anasazi beans appear to have been part of the Latin American and Southwestern cuisine for thousands' of years.

According to legend “the beans were uncovered by an anthropologist, who discovered a 1,500 year old tightly sealed jar of them at a dig in New Mexico. Some of the beans germinated, and the new variety of bean entered cultivation again. Since most botanists agree that most beans are unable to germinate after approximately 50 years, it is more probable that the beans remained in constant cultivation in the Southwest, probably in Native American gardens...”

Last year we were somewhat successful at growing the beans in a “3 Sister” bed with Glass Gem Corn and Spotted Hound squash. We have round the Glass Gem Corn into flour and made “Indian Cakes” and it was amazingly delicious (recipe in an upcoming post) and shared Anasazi beans at local seed swaps and through our seed library in hopes that others will grow and share the seeds. (we still have some if you are interested).

Further research led to a new discovery. In November of 2002, The Washington Agricultural Research Center at Washington State University announced the release of 'Orca' black and white Anasazi - type dry beans.

This bean is not the product of genetic engineering but of classical plant breeding. It is the first Anasazi type bean to reach harvest maturity within 110 days in North America. It's upright growth and resistance to Bean Common Mosaic Virus make it agreeable to our local climate. We are ready to grow Orca beans in 2016.



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