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Thursday, 2 June 2011

Growing black eyed beans

I have tried to grow runner beans with little success but French beans do well. In Cyprus, however, the best bean to grow, from a climatic point of view as it is drought tolerant, is the black eyed bean. And if you want to grow beans these are the ones we would recommend.

The village of Lurucina, where we live, has a long reputation for growing some of the best black eyed beans in Cyprus. 

The beans are known as louvi in Cypriot, börülce in Turkish and mavromatika in Greek

The villagers traditionally sow the beans in late May and June and harvest from late August onwards. Black eyed beans are an off white colour with black circles in the middle and originated in Africa, so love the warm Cypriot climate.  

My mother cooks dried black eyed beans with spinach and serves it with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice, a delicious meal. Fresh beans are used when in season and the only difference is they cook quicker. Another traditional method, is to cook with the addition of fried onions, tomatoes and tomato paste.

Fresh beans are picked when they are young, but are left to develop fully in their pods for drying and use throughout the year. The beans for drying are picked when the pods turn brown and are left to sun dry in their pods for a few days. After which, the beans are removed from their pods and, after removing podworm damaged beans, are sun dried for a few days before storage. Nowdays, after sun drying, they are also frozen for a period to ensure any bugs are killed before storage.

Dried legumes are among the most nutritious foods available, a good source of protein and a healthy substitute for meat, which has more fat and cholesterol. They are also an excellent source of vitamins A, B1, B2, C and also contain calcium and folate.

If you want to grow your own, direct sow two seeds together in June at a depth of 2.5cm, 45cm apart in rows 60cm apart. The beans will germinate in about 10 to 14 daysThe beans will benefit from regular watering but  are drought resistant and you will get a crop even with no watering, as long as the soil is moist beneath the surface.

Thin to healthiest plant if both beans germinate. The beans can suffer from podworm, blight, leaf spot and mildew and you can expect some losses but generally these are minimal.

Harvest your beans in about  65 to 80 days from sowing and you can expect average yields of about 1.5Kg to 3Kg from a 3 metre row. And added benefit is that the beans, like all legumes, add nitrogen to the soil. 

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