Nourish–July/August 2013


Growing Minds Need Growing Gardens

Growing Minds Need Growing Gardens

Sonia Clem

Food Gardens North tomatoes

Food Gardens North tomatoes

Oftentimes we can trace our love of gardens, whether food or flowers, to a specific point in our lives.  Read about the misadventures of a child, and the path she took.  Also, learn more about the efforts of Mike Davis, Kirsten Gerbatsch, Mike Kiessell, Ellen Lapekas, Trina Ball, and so many other MG’s for their heroic efforts in creating community and school gardens especially for children.  Be inspired and stay informed about the creative school gardens and MG-Seeds Demonstration garden project, and get involved if you can, here.


Michele Worden

Gourmet Bean Blend

Gourmet Bean Blend

So what is a bean? Think you know? “Bean is a common name for large plant seeds used for human food or animal feed of several genera of the family Fabaceae (alternately Leguminosae).” From that point, it gets tricky. It doesn’t help we commonly call things beans that are not beans but look like beans, such as cocoa beans, coffee beans and vanilla beans. It also does not help that botanists keep reclassifying legumes and beans to be in different families and genera. Also, the term bean is sometimes used as a synonym of the word pulse, which is an edible legume. Confused yet? Read on…

First, a clarification: the term “pulse” is usually reserved for leguminous crops harvested for their dry seed such as lentils or mung beans. This excludes green beans and green peas, which are considered vegetable crops. Also excluded in the definition of pulse are crops that are mainly grown for oil extraction (oilseeds like soybeans and peanuts), and crops used exclusively for sowing (clovers, alfalfa).

So here is what I have surmised in my bean research as an overview. The Fabaceae Family (or Leguminosae), commonly known as the legume, pea, or bean family, is a large and economically important family of flowering plants. This group is the third-largest land plant family and is divided into several large genera.

Beans from the Old World are in the genus Vicia (broad and fava beans, vetch), the genus Cicer (garbanzo beans or chickpeas), and the genus Pisum (peas). Asian beans seem to be in the genus Vigna (mung beans, yard-long beans, black-eyed peas) and Glycine (soybeans) but botanists keep changing their classification. Beans from the New World are the genus Phaseolus, which includes green beans, scarlet runner beans, and lima beans.

For simplicity sake, the remainder of this article will focus on Phaseolus vulgaris, the common bean that we plant in the garden in the summer.

Latin Name: Phaseolus vulgaris, the common bean

Botanical Family: Fabaceae,

Description: Phaseolus vulgaris, the common bean, is a herbaceous annual plant, grown worldwide for its edible beans, which are eaten both fresh as unripe fruit and as dried seeds. It is considered a vegetable. Phaseolus vulgaris includes string bean, field bean, flageolet bean, French bean, garden bean, haricot bean, pop bean or snap bean. Kidney bean, navy bean, and wax bean are types of Phaseolus vulgaris named for their fruit and seed characteristics.

All varieties bear alternate, green or purple leaves, which are divided into three oval, smooth-edged leaflets. The white, pink, or purple flowers give way to pods 3-8 in long. The pods may be green, yellow, black, or purple in color, each containing 4-6 beans. The beans are smooth, plump, kidney-shaped, and range widely in color, and are often mottled in two or more colors.

Common beans are classified into bush and pole (running) varieties. Bush beans are short plants, growing to approximately two feet in height, without requiring supports. They generally reach maturity and produce all of their fruit in a relatively short period of time, then cease to produce. Gardeners may grow more than one crop of bush beans in a season. Pole beans have a climbing habit and produce a twisting vine that is 6-9′ in length.

There are many varieties of beans that are cultivated primarily for a dried seed product such as kidney beans, pinto beans, and cranberry beans. Green bean varieties have been bred especially for the fleshiness, flavor, or sweetness of their pods. Haricots verts, French for “green beans”, may refer to a longer, thinner type of green bean than the typical American green bean. The first “stringless” bean was bred in 1894 by Calvin Keeney, called the “father of the stringless bean”, while working in Le Roy, New York.

Origin: Beans are one of the longest-cultivated plants. The oldest-known domesticated beans in the Americas were found in Guitarrero Cave, an archaeological site in Peru, and dated to around the second millennium BCE. Phaselous vulgaris was grown by native peoples from Chile to the northern part of what is now the United States.

Phaseolus was first seen by a European when Christopher Columbus, during his exploration of what may have been the Bahamas, found them growing in fields. Five kinds of Phaseolus beans were domesticated by pre-Columbian peoples: common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) grown from Chile to the northern part of what is now the United States, and lima and sieva beans (Phaseolus lunatus), as well as the less widely distributed teparies (Phaseolus acutifolius), scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) and polyanthus beans (Phaseolus polyanthus). These beans were taken back to Europe where they became staples in European cuisine. Cannellini beans in Italian cooking are actually Phaseolus vulgaris from the New World.

Cultivation (how and where grown): The common bean is a warm season crop and can be planted directly into the garden when the soil temperature is above 65 F. Beans germinate very quickly, usually in 3-5 days. Harvest can occur in 50-75 days, depending on the variety. Beans are legumes, so they acquire their nitrogen through an association with rhizobia: species of nitrogen-fixing bacteria that attach to the roots of the plant. Legumes are often used in agriculture as the next crop to replenish soils that are low in nitrogen when crops are rotated.

As the bean pods mature, they turn yellow and dry up, and the beans inside change from green to their mature color. As a vine, bean plants need external support, which may be provided in the form of special “bean cages” or poles. In more recent times, the so-called “bush bean” has been developed which does not require support and has all its pods develop simultaneously (as opposed to pole beans which develop gradually). This makes the bush bean more practical for commercial production.

The commercial production of beans is well distributed worldwide, with countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, Oceania, South and North America all among the top bean growers. Brazil and India are the largest producers of dry beans while China produces, by far, the largest quantity of green beans.

Fun Facts: Beans are a heliotropic plant, meaning that the leaves tilt throughout the day to face the sun. At nighttime, they go into a folded “sleep” position.

Phaseolus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including Common Swift, Garden Dart, Ghost Moth Hypercompe albicornis, Hypercompe icasia, the Nutmeg and various caterpillar species.

Nutrition: Beans were an important source of protein throughout Old and New World history, and still are today.

Fresh beans have higher values for vitamin C and vitamin A. In general, the common bean is high in starch, protein and dietary fiber and is an excellent source of iron, potassium, selenium, molybdenum, thiamine, vitamin B6, and folate. Beans also have significant amounts of fiber and soluble fiber, with one cup of cooked beans providing between nine and 13 grams of fiber. Soluble fiber helps lower blood cholesterol.

Culinary Uses: Green beans, wax beans (yellow) and purple beans are delicious fresh or steamed. They can be used in sautés, stir-fried or baked in casseroles. Shelling beans are beans removed from their pods before being cooked or dried. Fresh shell beans are nutritionally similar to dry beans, but are prepared more like a vegetable, often being steamed, fried, or made into soups.

Dry beans will keep indefinitely if stored in a cool, dry place, but as time passes, their nutritive value and flavor degrade and cooking times lengthen. Dried beans are almost always cooked by boiling, often after being soaked for several hours. While the soaking is not strictly necessary, it shortens cooking time and results in more evenly textured beans. In addition, soaking beans removes 5 to 10 percent of the gas-producing sugars that can cause flatulence for some people. The several methods include overnight soaking, and the power soak method, in which beans are boiled for three minutes and then set aside for 2-4 hours. Before cooking, the excess water is drained and discarded.

In Mexico, Central America and South America, the traditional spice to use with beans is epazote, which is also said to aid digestion. In East Asia, a type of seaweed, kombu, is added to beans as they cook for the same purpose. Salt, sugar, and acidic foods such as tomatoes may harden uncooked beans, resulting in seasoned beans at the expense of slightly longer cooking times.

Dry beans may also be bought cooked and canned as refried beans, or whole with water, salt, and sometimes sugar.

Medicinal Uses: Herbal medicine websites say that beans are a diuretic and that bean pods are effective in lowing blood sugar levels, if eaten in large quantities, to treat mild cases of diabetes. A bean pod diet for this purpose would mean eating 9-16 lb. of pods per week be cooked like vegetables. Bean pod tea is useful for dropsy, sciatica, chronic rheumatism, kidney and bladder problems, uric acid accumulations, and loss of albumin in the urine during pregnancy. Externally, bean tea promotes healing of ulcers and sores. Prolonged use of the decoction made from the beans is recommended for difficult cases of acne. Bean meal can also be applied directly to the skin for moist eczema, eruptions, and itching.

My favorite varieties: Dragon’s tongue (purple spotted), Beurre de Roquencourt (yellow wax), purple-podded pole bean.

Impact on Culture: “Beans, beans the musical fruit” is a popular children’s rhyme. Many edible beans, including broad beans and soybeans, contain oligosaccharides, a type of sugar molecule, which are digested in the large intestine by bacteria. A by-product of the digestion process is gas and flatulence.

Beans, squash and maize constitute the “Three Sisters”, planting companions that provide the foundation of Native American agriculture. In the “Three Sisters”, the tall cornstalks act as support for the beans, while the squash provide a living mulch for the roots of the corn.

Appearance in Literature: Jack and the Beanstalk is a famous fairytale.

Serve-July/August 2013


Jr MG Tip for FUN with Children in the Garden
The Case for Natural Shoreline Management

Jr MG Tip for FUN with Children in the Garden

Lillian Mahaney and Cheryl Gross

JRMG Projects

The best thing about working in the garden with kids is the FUN. As gardeners, we all find some wonderful feeling of satisfaction being in relationship with plants. Is it your tomato production, raspberry jam, picture-perfect lawn, spectacular flower color, or enriched soils that bring you joy? When we share our love of gardening with the young ones, there are a host of tips to get the message across and make it FUN.

Lillian Mahaney, our very own, local, Jr MG instructor and instructor trainer uses CDs by a band from California. They are four guys who write and perform songs, some with hand motions, to teach aspects of the natural world. Lil encourages you to check out the Banana Slug String Band’s Singing in the Garden CD.

“The Water Cycle Boogie”, for example, blasts out evaporation, condensation and precipitation in song and dance. “FBI” in their hands becomes…fungus, bacteria and invertebrates, which really delights the boys. “Dirt Made My Lunch” clears up any uncertainty of where all of our food originates. Finally, in a nod to us older folks, the , “Give Plants a Chance”.

Whether you work alongside your own children/grandchildren, with an after school/recreation/public library gardening program, school farming, or the whole kit and caboodle Junior Master Gardeners, YOU can keep it fun by singing along the facts of gardening with the Banana Slug String Band! Google the band’s title and find sites with snippets of songs. They will make you smile.

Stay tuned to this newsletter and the MGANM website. Lillian plans to offer a JR MG training program this fall, which will include a whole host of tips for working with kids in the garden.

The Case for Natural Shoreline Management

Mike Jones, Benzie Conservation District

Benzie Lighthouse

Benzie Lighthouse

With Northern Michigan’s abundance of inland lakes, rivers, and streams, waterfront property is important to residents, the health of the lakes and streams, and the wildlife they support. The shoreline and shallow water areas of a lake provide essential habitat for many fish and wildlife species.

Overdeveloped shorelines cannot support the fish, wildlife, and clean water that attract Michigan property owners and visitors to the waterfront. High-impact waterfront landscaping, with lawn to the water’s edge, creates problems for the lake ecosystem and waterfront owners. Rainwater carries lawn fertilizer, pet waste, leaves, and grass clippings into the lake, which promotes algal growth and the seasonal blooms that cause “green water”. Plants with shallow roots, especially grass, allow the shoreline to erode easily. Perfectly manicured lawns attract nuisance wildlife species such as geese. Hard-engineered shoreline structures such as seawalls and rip-rap, hinder the movement of wildlife to and from the lake and drastically alter the nearshore ecosystems that so many species depend on.

Alternative landscaping solutions can create attractive waterfronts that allow the recreational use of the shoreline while mimicking the functions of the wild shoreline of an undeveloped lake. Additional natural landscaping techniques such as rain gardens can filter pollutants such as bacteria, chemicals, and nutrients from runoff before it reaches our lakes.

With proper design, it is possible to have a beautiful shoreline that functions to protect the water quality and wildlife habitat while still enjoying the views and recreational uses that attract us to lakes.

Beautify–July/August 2013




Sunday Sept 29, 2013 – Thursday, Oct 3, 2013

Revolutionary Gardens Conference

This 4-day conference is a tax-deductible benefit event for the Botanical Garden Society of Northwest Michigan and will feature a series of lectures by internationally-known garden authors and designers Andrea Wulf, Peter Hatch and Warren Byrd.  You may register for single workshops, single days, or the complete conference.  Two special donor options are also available: Garden VIP and Garden Friend.  You may pay online through Pay Pal or send your check to: BGSNM, Box 1247, Traverse City, MI 49685-1247. Checks should be made payable to BGSNM.  Registrants can sign up for a variety of programs. Go to the BGS webpage to register, and/or click on the image for this article to take you to a copy of the full schedule.

Andrea Wulf

Andrea Wulf

One of the speakers at the upcoming “Revolutionary Gardeners Conference” is Andrea Wulf.

Trained as a design historian at the Royal College of Art in London, Andrea Wulf is a fulltime writer. She is the author of four books and writes for a number of papers, including the Wall Street Journal, LA Times, and Financial Times.

She has lectured to audiences at the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Society in London along with the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia and Chicago Botanic Garden among many others.

As a three-time fellow of International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, Wulf is extremely familiar with American gardening history. One of Wulf’s books Founding Gardeners looks at Revolutionary America by focusing on the gardening of four of the Founding Fathers.

We are privileged to have such a powerful and passionate speaker here in Northern Michigan.

For the full schedule of lectures, click here.

News & Events–July/August 2013

July/August Meeting – Natural Shoreline Project Tour

  • Friday, July 26, 3 pm
  • Almira Township Public Beach, Lake Ann (view map)

Join the Master Gardener Association of Northwest Michigan and the Benzie Conservation District for a tour of demonstration sites for natural shoreline landscapes. See for yourself how you can use natural shorelines to beautify your landscape and help ensure clean waters, deter geese, prevent erosion problems, and improve fish and wildlife habitat. We will be touring shoreline projects at Lake Ann, Platte Lake, and Watervale Resort. $5 suggested donation. Please RSVP to the Benzie Conservation District, (231) 882-4391.

July/August Meeting — Natural Shoreline Project Tour

2 year natural shoreline_Photo and design project by Carolyn Thayer, Designs in Bloom, Benzie County,  (10)Friday, July 26, 3 pm
Almira Township Public Beach, Lake Ann (view map)

Join the Master Gardener Association of Northwest Michigan and the Benzie Conservation District for a tour of demonstration sites for natural shoreline landscapes. See for yourself how you can use natural shorelines to beautify your landscape and help ensure clean waters, deter geese, prevent erosion problems, and improve fish and wildlife habitat. We will be touring shoreline projects at Lake Ann, Platte Lake, and Watervale Resort. $5 suggested donation. Please RSVP to the Benzie Conservation District, (231) 882-4391.

Photo by Carolyn Thayer, Designs in Bloom,


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