Common Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.)

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Origin

Common beans are one of the most widely consumed foods in the world, with approximately 1 billion tons produced every year. However, few people realize how they got their start.

In the Middle Ages, common beans were considered a luxury food that was only eaten by royalty. They were grown in Spain, France, and Italy, and were imported from other parts of Europe and Africa. Today, common beans are grown worldwide and can be found at any grocery store.

There are two major types of common bean crops: dry heat bean crops (like yellow pinto bean) and wet-heat bean crops (like red kidney bean). Dry-heat beans have been grown for thousands of years in Mexico and North America. Wet-heat beans, on the other hand, are native to South America, though they have become popular throughout the rest of the world.

Common beans
Common beans

Consumption 

Common Beans are one of the most nutritious foods in existence; they have been consumed by humans since prehistoric times. They are high in fiber and low in fat. They are loaded with nutrients such as folate, iron, magnesium, zinc and manganese. Beans also contain antioxidants that protect against cancer and heart disease.

Despite their many healthful properties, not everyone likes them as much as others. Some people simply cannot stand their smell. Others find them too bland or dry. Still others dislike that they take time and effort to prepare.

That said, bean consumption has fallen drastically since the early 20th century. In fact, it was only in 1946 that Americans began eating more than 100 grams per day on average. By 2000, this amount had dropped to 75 grams a day. What is the explanation for this decline in bean intake?

It turns out that the decrease in bean consumption has more to do with consumer preferences than with actual availability. For example, the popularity of canned beans grew significantly after World War II. Moreover, the price of beans fell between 1960 and 1996, making them an affordable food item.

Nutritional value

Beans are one of nature’s greatest gifts. These legumes contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. They are an excellent source of folate and are high in iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, protein, zinc, and copper. They are low in saturated fat and sodium and are loaded with antioxidants, including beta-carotene and other carotenoids. Beans are also a good source of B12 and tryptophan.

Varieties 

Beans are a popular crop grown worldwide for their edible seeds. They can be eaten fresh or used in various recipes. There is no doubt that they have become an essential part of our diet as well as culture. The first cultivated varieties of the common bean were found in Mexico by Olmstead who was able to cultivate them successfully due to his knowledge of corn cultivation (in those days farmers learnt from each other). He named it “Phaseolus vulgaris” which means broad-bean in Greek. Later on some European countries like Spain, Italy and France also started cultivating this delicious vegetable. By 1743 there were about 20 different cultivars of the bean available at market place in Europe. In 1845, Bean Plot Farm came into existence in America where more than 1 million pounds of dried green and yellow split peas were produced per year. Since then many new varieties of the beans have been developed. Some examples include ‘Fordhook Giant’ which produces up to 30 lb. of dry pods per plant while ‘Horton Gray’ produces around 15 lbs of dry podded beans per plant. These two types alone produce enough quantity to meet approximately 75% of all U.S.’s annual consumption demand for dry beans. It is estimated that the world production of beans has increased from 2 billion tons in 1961 to over 100 billion tons in 2011 with China being the largest producer accounting for almost half of total production mainly through its vast irrigation network.
The most commonly known variety of the beans is the French Broad bean (“Vigna unguiculata”) but we will discuss only one type here called the Runner bean because it’s easier to handle when growing indoors. This particular variety of the bean has dark red skin surrounding the pod, flat seed shape, long taproot system, and large size fruits weighing between 3 – 6 oz. depending upon maturity stage. Its fruit matures after flowering and ripens during mid summer. Another good thing about these beans is that they do not need much attention once planted except taking extra care before harvesting to avoid any damage caused by insects such as aphids. On average each plant requires about 10 gallons water per week to remain healthy and productive throughout the season.

Common beans
Common beans

Location to Grow

They prefer rich soil conditions with lots of moisture and sunlight. If you choose to start your own garden try planting them outdoors under the partial shade provided by trees. Keep away from direct sunrays otherwise they may develop scorching heat and burn leaves if left exposed. You can easily find a shady spot near windows for planting. Or else buy small pots and use them inside your house. The latter method makes sure that plants receive proper amount of light needed for photosynthesis process to take place. If you live in area affected by drought, consider planting your beans outside. However, ensure watering needs are taken care of regularly especially during periods of drought.

Substrates

Most people usually use potting soils since they are readily available. But if you want to go beyond ordinary with your gardening efforts why don’t you give clay pebbles a chance? They work wonders in enhancing growth and producing better yields. Just add 5 inches of gravel mix with topsoil and sand mixture within your pot followed by adding layer of sphagnum moss and compost till 4″. Next step would be to sow your bean seeds directly onto substrate surface. After germination cover them lightly with additional mulch material such as pine bark chips. Water thoroughly and keep moist until roots appear above ground level. Once done, continue regular feeding and watering schedule on weekly basis until harvest time arrives.

Nutrient Requirements

If you wish to increase your yield of the beans, feed them nutrient enriched organic manure mixed with rock phosphate fertilizer according to label directions. Use full spectrum liquid fish emulsion granular fertilizers instead of slow release formulas. Also use blood meal, greensand, and bone meal as supplements. Don’t forget to provide plenty of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, boron, molybdenum, chlorine and sulfur elements in order to enhance overall health and productivity levels.

Baby common bean
Baby common bean

Sowing

Since beans require warm temperatures to sprout properly, therefore they should be sown early in springtime. Generally you can sow seeds immediately after last frost occurs. Do not allow the soil temperature to drop below 45 degrees fahrenheit or rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Ensure the soil gets sufficient warmth prior to seeding by using row covers made out of black plastic film. Remove the film covering 24 hours prior to transplanting. Be patient and wait for up to 72 hours for seedlings to emerge from soil. Sprouts will begin rapid shoot development after 12-24 hrs. Thin seedling rows to 8 inch spacing apart to encourage uniformity in growth. Space seeds every four feet apart along the row. Cover young seedlings with soil firmly yet gently to prevent splitting of stems. Remember to remove thinning weeds without disturbing newly emerging seedlings. For best results, apply preemergent herbicides to control weeds.

Plant Care

Water frequently but sparingly. Avoid soaking wet grounds for extended period. Allow adequate drainage space for optimum air circulation. Mulching helps maintain high humidity levels. As far as possible protect against excessive sun rays. Take necessary precautions like installing window shades to block strong sunlight. When planting, always dig deep to get rid of shallow rooted weeds. Fertilize monthly with balanced complete organic fertilizer. During hot summers, leave the bottom open to let excess moisture drain away. To help improve soil structure, incorporate ample amounts of organic matter such as straw, hay, etc. Good quality organic materials will supply nutrients required for healthy growth of your crops while improving soil texture.

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