We eat a lot of beans (frijoles) here at the farm; pretty much every day, in fact. The most common variations are boiled/stewed, refried (molidos), or with rice (pinto), and they accompany all sorts of dishes from burritos to soups.
On our second day here at the Rancho we got the chance to go help a local farmer, Chepo, with his bean harvest. We drove out due South-ish in the red truck that has been on the farm since the beginning.
Looking out towards Parque Nacional La Cangreja, Chepo’s field lay on a fairly steep, mostly treeless slope. It is and has been common practice to clear forests for annual agriculture or livestock.
He and a friend/colleague were laying out some of the beans to dry as we arrived.
With a bunch of sacks, our hands and feet and some much appreciated cloud cover we split into two groups; one scouring the hillside for bean plants to pull up (roots and all) to hand back to the lot of us to strip the beans and bag them.
Unfortunately, the practice of pulling out the whole plant without leaving any residues to decompose, or adding any additional material (such as compost), can leave hillsides such as this nutrient-depleted and eroded. Soil should never be left bare, and hillsides should usually either have trees (whose roots soak up and store water, preventing erosion), or be terraced if they are to be cultivated. This is definitely easier said then done, especially in as hilly a country as Costa Rica!
Later back at the Ranch, we de-hulled the seeds from their pods and they were set out to dry in the sun.
Currently I’m working on getting some perennial beans, the Winged Bean (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus), planted. It’s obvious advantage as a perennial as opposed to an annual would be that in the ideal case it would yield for multiple years before having to be re-planted.
I’ve recently completed the bamboo trellis, and will be planting half the beans in the dry season and half just before the start of the wet season (around mid-April), as an experiment and due to a tip from one of the locals (supposedly they explode with growth with the coming of the rains).
I’ll write a follow-up post on the success of this project, from garden to kitchen, as well as expand on the differences between annual and perennial agricultures and why the latter may be beneficial for combating climate change (especially in the tropics where things can grow year round!).