I planted bolita beans that I bought from a farm less than 30 miles from here. They are hopefully the best adapted bean to use in my garden and the best candidate for experimenting with growing without supplemental water.
Beans were cultivated up to 10,000 years ago in Peru. They were also cultivated by central and South American tribes for thousands of years and spread into the Southwest where I live. Some believe bolita beans came here with the Spaniards. Maybe so. I haven’t found a good source on that one.
Either way, through First Nations or Spaniards, bolita beans are a Western heirloom bean grown in New Mexico. They are a bush bean with runners and a deep root system that withstands drought. Like all beans they fix nitrogen in the soil and support other plants. The beans are not good immature as green beans, but are a delicious pinkish beige dried bean that cooks in half the time of a Pinto. I use them like Pintos but they are richer tasting with a creamier texture.
I planted three dozen of these local beans just before monsoon season and left them dry in the ground until our monsoon rains started. They are now up along the fence and about a foot tall.
Although I have watered the beans planted with my three sisters combination, these will not get supplemental water. If any survive to produce dried beans, I will save them for next year’s crop.
In a market economy geared to irrigation and pesticides, this sounds radical. The deeper truth is this method has produced endless varieties better suited to local conditions and has done so for millenia. This is part of my circular economy, a natural economy that enriches all who step into the circle.
If bolitas do not perform under my conditions, I have other heritage beans to try.
Variety by variety, I hope to develop seeds that will work for non-irrigated gardening on my property. I will devote some space to food now and some space to experiments.
Beans are easy to grow, maybe the easiest for beginners. They work well between other plants and enrich the soil for all. I have always tucked them in as a productive fertilizer. Most varieties are good as immature green beans.
Butterflies and bees both congregate around beans, and if you pick green beans regularly they bloom over a long period. Scarlet Runner beans are glorious in bloom and can use small trees as support in a food forest. They make a good temporary screen or shade.