For this spring planting, I have picked Bolita Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), Garden Peas (Pisum sativus), Lentils (Lens culinaris), and Tepary Beans (Phaseolus coccineus).
All are great nitrogen fixers, and because I do not use market economy fertilizer, legumes are planted in my garden for their nitrogen fixing qualities. If you want, you can plant in one place and rotate your crops. I generally intersperse them throughout and also around shrubs and fruit trees.
My Bolita bean is a landrace variety from this area. I plant right before the Monsoon season and as soon as the rains start, up come these bush beans. They will mature without supplemental watering in my mountain garden. Perfection.
I have been reading that these small beans are in danger of extinction due to crossing with Pinto beans. I will not grow any other bean varieties so that I can keep a pure strain. Beans in general self pollinate before they open; however it is possible. I will keep my two Phaseolus species at least 30 feet apart for surety although it is rare for coccineus to cross with vulgaris. I want about 10 pounds of Bolita beans.
Bolitas have a short season 90-day growing period and are determinate (bush) types. They are destined for a single harvest dry bean. I will miss growing common green beans, but believe these are more important. One reason these beans are so drought tolerant is their deeper root system.
Bolita Beans are a good source of protein and are another candidate for bulk calories. Corn completes the protein in beans for best nutrition. With several candidates for bulk calories, all of which complement proteins in the others, I will be well on my way to food security.
Garden Peas are a favorite that I have grown in all my gardens. This year will be different because I plan to expand the planting area in order to allow some to mature and dry. In the past I have grown them for fresh peas only, delighting in their sweetness raw and cooked during the season. The expansion allows some to dry to maturity for saving seed for future crops not tainted by GMO tampering. I also want to have 3 pounds for split pea soup, so that in the future I will no longer purchase pea seeds, fresh or frozen peas, or dried split peas.
My third pick is lentils. I have never grown them before, but they should do well in my cool climate. I will plant brown lentils, the ones that I use for sprouts. They don’t mind a late frost, so I will plant in late April and hope for the best results. I have red, black, and French green lentils. These, too, will be saved for next year’s seed. Because lentils only need 12 to 14 inches of rain, I expect they will make a good landrace seed for me. One more food that will not require irrigation in my dry southwestern garden.
My last pick is another landrace variety, Blue Speckled Tepary beans. These beans have been cultivated for around 5000 years with little selection for any feature other than drought and heat tolerance. They are among the most drought tolerant of crops for desert areas. They are also short season plants, and will grow in my mountain garden during my summer monsoons.
In spite of the value of the Tepary bean, it has almost disappeared. This is another bean that I believe will grow in my garden and that I want to help save from extinction. Today I ordered this seed online.
This is a heavy producer, and the beans are known to help with both high cholesterol and diabetes.
In all, these four legume picks give me a good basis for a garden that will adapt to my location and help me provide my own food security.