When we think of legumes, we think of peas and beans, but those common foods are just the beginning. The pea family (Fabaceae or Leguminosae) is the third largest family of plants, with somewhere between 13,000 and 19,000 species (botanists disagree) that range from large trees to sprawling vines to shrubs and small forbs. They may look quite different from one another, but a careful examination will reveal a number of similarities, making the members of this fascinating family fairly easy to identify.
Some gardeners plant the same varieties year after year, depending on past performance to guarantee future success. Why mess with something that works? Others, myself included, like to try the latest cultivars. We’re always searching for that new and improved flower or vegetable that will make this year’s garden the best ever.
When several of my seed catalogs proudly featured a new pole bean, Monte Gusto, I was eager to try it out. How would it compare to my usual choice, Emerite? (Emerite is an awesome bean—long, straight, early, prolific, and delicious!)
Then I discovered that my favorite catalog had discontinued Emerite. How could they? Not wanting to order elsewhere (I’d have to pay shipping for a single seed packet), I ordered Fortex, a variety that has received rave reviews in past years.
You’ve been hard at work all spring. First you started some seeds indoors, then you hardened them off so they will withstand the rigors of Colorado weather. You set your transplants in beds you carefully prepared with just the right amendments and fertilizers. Then you seeded some other crops (such as bush beans and squash) outdoors where they are to grow, and now you have cute little seedlings, putting out their first true leaves, on their way to providing you with some delicious eating.
Finally, it’s time to take a break, sit back, and snooze in your hammock (in between chores such as watering and weeding), and wait for your crops to mature.
If you planted green beans in May, and your garden survived our huge hail storm in June, you should be looking forward to your first harvest this month. While we sweat and complain about the record highs, beans like it hot and they’ve been growing like crazy.
There are hundreds of bean varieties, and even catalogs that specialize in beans of all sorts. I’ll share my favorites. Which ones are yours?
Temperatures are climbing into the 90s, your spring-planted crops are reaching maturity, and you’re excited about garden fresh salads and new potatoes. Besides harvesting your bounty, there are millions of weeds to be pulled, poisoned, or decapitated. The last thing on your mind is planting more seeds.
In more benign climates, fall crops go in at the end of the summer, after the worst heat has passed. Our short season demands that we plant fall crops earlier, to give them time to mature before the snow flies. Now is the time.