This is a HUGE category including Peas, Lentils, Bush Beans, Pole Beans, and Dry Beans. To write about each individual one would be write a sizable book, something I don’t plan to do. But I will give you the basics of the popular.
Bush/Pole Peas, Snap Peas and Snow Peas are very easy to grow during you cool season. For me it’s in the spring and sometimes fall. Peas are a great crop for me because I can’t wait to get in the garden and begin planting and they can be planted when the ground is still very cold. I plant them only a few inches apart and about that deep too. If I’m feeling really impatient for a fresh garden picking, I soak the peas just until I see a sprout and then plant them quickly. They are usually ready a week earlier doing this. All my peas prefer to climb. I wish I could say I have this beautiful trellis that they vine on and it’s so lovely. The truth of it is I rig up anything I have handy for them to climb on; I’ve used tall tomato cages (the peas are done by the time the tomatoes need them), random bamboo poles (I bought for who knows what), an old dog kennel (you know the chain link fence kind) and steaks with twine. In the fall you can plant peas to climb the cornstalks if you like. Short of it, peas will be happy to climb on whatever they are able.
Harvesting peas is pretty straight forward, they flower, then a pod begins to grow. If you are growing Snow Peas the pods will be picked when they are still relatively flat, Snap Peas and regular peas both get harvested when the pods are full.
To save seeds just leave the pods on the vine until they dry. Crush the pods and keep the dried peas for new seed.
I prefer freezing my peas to canning them. I like to dry some not just for seed but for use of split pea soup (made with home grown ham hocks 😉 ). This year I think we will end up canning them due to freezer space taken by grass fed chickens. Yay!
Snap Beans are the “common” beans (Phaseolus Beans). These can grow anywhere and come in many colors. I like to grow the purple ones mainly because they look neat but for my main harvest I grow green bush beans. Yellow beans, known as Wax beans are popular for some people too, they tend to have a more mild flavor.
Depending on the variety you pick they will either climb as a pole bean or not, as a bush bean. Plant your beans about 5 inches apart and about an 1 inch deep. Plant after the threat of frost as these don’t tolerate cold well. In fact planting pole beans should be done two weeks after the bush varieties.
Harvesting beans should be done when the beans just reach their mature size, this will vary depending on the variety. If you allow your beans to get too big they will become woody but don’t worry all is not lost. Beans that have overgrown can be left on the vine to dry for seed or picked and pickled.
Beans can be stored canned or froze. Immature beans can be blanched and dried, I have never tried this; I don’t mind canning them.
Green Shell Beans are beans that are grown until the bean seed has fully formed, then shelled before the bean pod and seed has dried. I get the concept, but for the work it takes even I don’t bother with these.
Dry Bean varieties are numerous from Black, Pinto, Kidney and many more. They are grown the same as other varieties. Harvesting these is held off until they are completely dry. Pick the pods, crush them, allow the crushed pods to blow away (doing this outside) and keep the seed for dry beans and next years seed.
Black Eyed Peas ( I know I should insert some lame joke about the band, but the name is all I know about them), Chickpeas aka Garbanzo Beans, Fava Beans, Lentils and surprisingly Peanuts are all in the same family, the Non-Phaseolus Beans. A quick run down of these goes like this:
Black Eyed Peas and a few others are known as “Southerns”. They grow well in the south and although usually called “Peas” they are neither peas nor beans but a closer relative to Lentils.
Lentils are more work than they can be worth as a garden crop, so they are usually grown as field crops.
Fava beans are also called Horse Beans; the plants can be harvested and used as hay for horses. They like cool weather and can handle much cooler seasons than the “Common Beans”.
Peanuts or Ground Nuts grow really well in hot climates. They are native to Brazil. They can grow in the north but will take some extra preparation and care. They can be harvested when the pods are very young. They can then be boiled in salt water and toasted. Or, you can let them reach full maturity, dig the whole plant, let it hang to cure for about two months, when they are ready the nuts will fall from the vine. Then they can be boiled, roasted, or smashed into peanut butter.
Soybeans should be planted about 1 inch deep and 3 inches apart. They like warm weather as most other beans do. They should be harvested before the pods dry even when saving seeds. The pods can get very brittle when dry, so if you leave them in the garden or field until they dry you can have broken pods and lose the seed. Soy beans are made into soy milk, soy sauce, miso, and tofu to name a few.