Browsing through the aisles of Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket the other day with a few friends of mine I chanced upon two types of beans I had never seen before. This is one way I find fascinating new crops to grow, sometimes stuff that you never find in seed catalogs.
A small bean used in Indian cuisine, moth bean is cooked and made into various dishes, particularly popular with the Maharastrian people. Here is one recipe. The beans are also soaked overnight to make them sprout. These sprouted beans are used for salad.
Urad Bean Vigna mungo
Like a black lentil but rounder, the urad bean is used to make dahl and many other dishes. It originated in India and has been cultivated since ancient times. It is considered one of the best legume crops of India. It has since spread to the rest of southern Asia and is often used in Vietnamese cooking. Here is a Pakistani recipe.
Both beans are easy to grow, as beans usually are. Give them room to climb on a fence, trellis, or support of some sort. Plant seed directly into the ground in average garden soil after threat of frost. You don’t need to feed beans often, but a little fish emulsion, kelp or compost tea doesn’t hurt, especially when they are young. Beans have a relationship with mycorrhizal fungi that supply plants with their own source of nitrogen. This also enriches the soil around them (and why you don’t plant root crops that want low nitrogen too close to beans).
Plant in full sun. Whatever you choose to grow beans on, make sure you are not going to shade out other crops in the garden. Always plant crops keeping in mind the mature size. It is a common mistake in gardening to forget things get big.
Consider creating bean poles for the beans to grow on. They look cool, especially when the plants start growing on them. Somehow in my mind, when I see bean poles in a garden, I think, “Woah, ok this is a serious gardener.”