I was recently driving on Highway 40 towards Wallaceburg and noticed some short, light green, looking soybeans but after a couple minutes it dawned on me that they were actually dry edible beans – well more specifically white beans. You probably know them best as the beans used in baked beans or the ones that the English have for breakfast – a full English breakfast that is! Anyways, the term dry beans is a little misleading as people call them many different names such as dry beans, edible beans, dry edible beans, common beans or even legumes but whatever you call them the term includes many different types of beans but the main types of dry edible beans grown in Ontario are kidney, cranberry, black, otebo, and adzuki (or azuki) beans as well as the white bean also known as navy bean (called the navy bean because the US Navy has served the beans as a staple to its sailors since the mid-1800s).
Dry edible beans belong to the plant family called legumes (which also include alfalfa, peanuts and clover among many others) and the crop is typically grown under contract with over 80% of production being exported to the UK, Spain, Italy and Japan which are high end markets because Ontario grows some of the best quality dry beans in the world.
Although dry edible beans grow and look similar to soybeans they however require special cultural management practices for optimum quality and profitability. They are not nearly as “hands off” as the soybean. Dry edible beans grow best in soils with excellent soil structure and good drainage therefore they cannot be grown in just any Ontario soil unlike the soybean. However, the seedbed requirements are similar to those for soybeans, including a firm seedbed to enhance a uniform planting depth and good seed-to-soil contact to promote rapid and uniform emergence. A rotation where beans are grown only once in 3 years (or longer) is essential to avoid the build-up of diseases. The most common diseases encouraged by short rotations are root rots and white mould. Options for controlling annual broadleaf and perennial weeds with herbicides are limited in dry edible beans, so ideally weeds should be controlled in the previous crop. Weeds present at harvest may also create quality problems (i.e., seed staining) and reduce harvest efficiency and decrease the value of the crop.
Dry edible beans are typically planted in the late spring and harvested in mid-fall and are sensitive to damage at harvest and since they are sold based on eye appeal, seed coat quality and colour are very important. Producing beans that are clean, bright and whole is the ultimate goal and timely harvest is paramount to maintaining quality. The ideal moisture range for harvest is between 16% to 20% and therefore harvesting outside this range will reduce quality.
As a food, beans can play a role in reducing the risks of developing some chronic conditions and diseases. Edible beans give us the richest source of vegetable protein within our food supply. They are cholesterol free and low in fat, as well as a very high source of dietary fibre. Beans are also an excellent source of energy containing complex carbohydrates as well as a host of vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients. The bean’s mix of dietary fibre and complex starches give beans an incredibly low Gylcemic Index. Bean rich diets have been shown to prolong satiety. Beans have been noted to impart other health benefits in that they may help in the control of intestinal disorders (colorectal cancer, and irritable bowel syndrome) and cardiovascular disease.
Information gleaned from Ontario Bean Growers website and OMAFRA website.
Daryl Vermey was born and raised on a farrow to finish, cash crop family farm just outside of Blenheim, Ontario and has worked in many capacities in the Canadian agricultural industry for both non-profit and for profit companies. Feel free to reach out to him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Remember that here in Chatham-Kent ‘We Grow for the World’. Check out our community’s agriculture website at: wegrowfortheworld.com”