Kidney Bean, Black Bean, Navy Bean

Phaseolus vulgaris
Sow depth1 inch
Emergence8-10 days
TemperatureLet's say 20-27 C, at least.
LightFull sun
SoilLoamy soil
Height1-3 feet tall, 1-2 feet wide
PollinationSelf-fertile, and one reference says self-fertilizing. I assume that means self-pollinating. But another reference says P. vulgaris is normally pollinated by bees. So... Bzz bzz.
Maturity55-95 days, depending on what you're harvesting and the plant variety
HarvestHarvest as snap beans (when pod is soft), shell beans (when beans are mature but still soft and pod is tough [aka, inedible]), or dry beans (when the beans rattle inside the pods).
Culinary UseSprouts can be used in stir fry or salads; immature pods can be used in stir fry; soft mature beans can be steamed as a side dish or added to salads; dry mature beans are used in soups, stews, or ground and used as a flour additive; roasted mature beans have been used as a coffee substitute; young leaves can be added to salads; mature leaves may be cooked (check out some African dishes--boil the leaves, add some peanuts, and spice with salt, pepper, and paprika to taste).
ProblemsDo not like to be transplanted (sensitive to root damage). Soaking prior to sowing may damage seed (I trust the Cornell University website more than other sources that tell you to soak the seeds). Prickly about temperature; below 15 C and they're not happy.

No info on growing indoors, unless you just want the sprouts or are planning experiments for the kiddies. My assumptions: keep 'em watered, keep 'em well-lit and hot (closing the window on cool nights, like right now, probably is good for them), maybe get another lamp for closer to the beans. Allow to grow as tall as possible and bush out naturally to save much-sought-after horizontal space in the garden.

All of the above-listed beans (in the head) are of the same species and are all bush varieties. When the plant reaches the desired height, you can nip off the apical meristem (top of the plant), and that will allow the axillary meristems (the ones in the nook of the leaves) to start growing new branches. The apical meristem generates auxins, which are hormones that are involved in a whole load of plant processes (ie. growth, apical dominance [what I'm talking most about here], maturation, regulating flowering times, inducing root growth on cuttings, etc.). Auxins only move from top down; so when the top is removed, the bottom bits start getting the chance to expand. The plant will do this naturally, I'm sure, because they are bush beans, but I haven't found anything to back this up. But it makes sense; you can't become bushy unless you are wide, right? And to get wide, one must have lateral growth. So at some point, the plant probably stops vertical growth, shuts down the auxin production, and lets the lateral shoots do their thing.

Side note: Auxins may help play a role in plants' gravity-detection abilities (what causes stems to grow up and roots to grow down no matter what orientation the plant is in). If you knock over a planter or something and don't notice for a few days, auxins are what make the plant grow upright again. They pool in an area and cause cell elongation. So, when cells on the bottom of the stem are elongating while the ones on the top aren't, it causes the stem to curve--up, in this case. Plants are cool. Auxins affect roots differently. They do stimulate root growth (they are applied to cuttings to force root growth), but high levels inhibit root elongation and lead to more lateral roots, basically. Removing the root tip actually inhibits secondary root formation--the exact opposite effect that removing the top of the plant does for the side shoots. Odd, eh?

P. vulgaris is another nitrogen fixer--it's part of the Fabaceae family, which we call legumes. Ceratonia siliqua, carob, is another legume. It's popular as a chocolate substitute. A lot of legumes are great for enriching the soil with yummy nitrogen for other plants, but commercially grown varieties should be rotated every couple years. Oh crop rotation, how I long for thee! I probably won't have to worry much about in my tiny plot--or rather, I won't be able to "rotate" them far enough away to avoid a build-up of potentially bad critters in the soil.

The Wikipedia list of bean diseases is much shorter than that for soybean!

There's some pretty wicked information here, but I didn't reference any of it in this post as it wasn't really the type of detail I'm looking for. But, warning: Don't eat the mature beans raw. They might be slightly toxic. P. coccineus, Scarlet Runner, is, I know (even though I planted some outside of Mr. Yogato), but they are definitely edible if you cook them. The compound responsible for toxicity is phytohaemagglutinin, which induces cell division, messes up cell-membrane transportation and permeability, and causes red blood cells to clump up. It's in highest concentration in kidney beans. I think the worst effects you'd feel are from the effing with the cell membrane--if nutrients don't cross your cell membranes, they can't get from your gut to the rest of your body. So, with nothing being absorbed in your intestines, it just goes right through you, and you have diarrhea. There's also vomiting and nausea, but the symptoms only last a few hours and generally don't require any medical treatment--so it's a good option if you want to stay home from school or something, although don't blame me if something goes wrong--I'm not McDonald's, you're responsible for your own actions! Immature beans should be pretty okay, but go ahead and boil/steam them for a few minutes if you're worried, I guess. Edit: Added information about bean toxin at 13:12 on 20 April.

Post Scriptum: Two... No, three notes about the series. I won't list specific diseases anymore--I will just link to a pretty comprehensive list (Wikipedia has good ones). I mean, unless I notice it on my plants, then I'll talk about it that disease. Also, I am not listing water or fertilizer requirements. All these plants require added nutrients and moist soil, but good drainage--they're vegetables. It's a given. Unless it actually isn't a given, and then I will note it. Also, I'm not providing links to every place I get my information. The entire post would be riddled with them and look ugly. These are best guesses at accuracy from pretty widely varied (conflicting) information. But I try to select reliable sources. (Oddly enough, my textbooks speak little about specific plants and more about general themes among them. It's almost as if they were introductory texts. Le gasp.)

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3 Responses to Kidney Bean, Black Bean, Navy Bean

  1. I used an innoculant on some of my beans and not on others...and it does appear to make a difference. The innoculated ones are up, the others aren't even peeking yet.

  2. Great Stuff!! I found a bag of dry mixed beans for soup that we like to use and decided to throw several in the ground. some of them were lentils and I love lentil soup with sausage and herbs and tomatoes. I did however, soak the seeds; from your information I understand I shouldnt have done that. i may just directly sow some into the ground. Thanks for the great info.

  3. LoL I was surprised to learn about a lot of this--beans being poisonous, not to soak them prior to sowing, all that stuff. Some information I found did suggest to soak the seeds, but that makes the seedling more prone to damping off--generally a fungal infection that suddenly turns an otherwise healthy seedling into a dying little pile of leaves. The stem near the soil will pretty much be eaten away, and the joyful plant will topple over. That could happen anyway, but when certain seeds are soaked, apparently it's more likely. I soaked my seeds before I found that information, and they did just fine, but y'never know, I guess!



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