A pastor from Haiti asks about dry bean varieties for the tropics:
“Recently, I was contacted by a small group of farmers who have secured acres of ground in Haiti and are diligently working to produce a variety of crops – utilizing a cooperative of Haitian farmers and growers to produce Plantain and Peanuts.
They knew of my work and efforts in Haiti and asked my help in finding a variety of bean that can be planted in Haiti and the tropics.
(Soon) I will be returning to Haiti. They have asked if I might do some research and find one or two varieties of beans that they can grow…- ultimately for food…but currently to grow as seed stock to make available to other farmers in the area to produce a crop that will produce nutrient and protein to the needy in Haiti. They are willing to grow… but the options for growing varieties is somewhat a mystery.
Since I understand you live in a similar tropic…that you might have some possible suggestions…and BEAN varieties that may be able to handle the Haiti climate without dropping blossoms. As you may know there are a variety of beans favored in Haiti – black beans and white beans…and a type of lima bean. But these are normally imported – after having been grown in Michigan.”
The pastor further informed me that they are looking for dry bean varieties, not green beans. Think storable protein.
I recommended pigeon peas and he wrote further:
“I have been reading about the pigeon peas and ordered the seed today to arrive in time to take with me.”
So that’s good – pigeon peas can take a lot of heat and humidity and produce crops for at least two years, provided wind damage doesn’t take them down.
Another thought I had was the classic “black-eyed pea” or “zipper peas,” also called “crowder peas,” “cow peas” and “Southern peas.”
Their Latin name is Vigna unguiculata.
They take heat, poor soil, humidity and low rainfall and still produce crops.
We had great success with them in dry and wet conditions and high heat.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has quite a few varieties for sale.
There is also the Kebarika bean from Kenya that’s available from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.
We grew those in a hot and rainy summer in Florida and they were one of the few bean plants that produced dry beans for us.
The flavor is bland but the plants were strong.
The pastor mentioned lablab (Lablab purpureus) in one of his emails – that could be another good option, though I have not grown them much myself.
Via Tropical Forages:
“Lablab is a dual-purpose legume. It is traditionally grown as a pulse crop for human consumption in south and southeast Asia and eastern Africa. Flowers and immature pods also used as a vegetable. It is also used as a fodder legume sown for grazing and conservation in broad-acre agricultural systems in tropical environments with a summer rainfall. Also used as green manure, cover crop and in cut-and-carry systems and as a concentrate feed. It can be incorporated into cereal cropping systems as a legume ley to address soil fertility decline and is used as an intercrop species with maize to provide better legume/stover feed quality. As a dual purpose (human food and animal feed) legume , it is sown as a monoculture or in intercrop systems.”
Winged beans are a Swiss Army Knife bean species. Edible leaves, green pods, roots and dry beans.
“Winged bean thrives in hot weather and favours humidity, but it is an adaptable plant. It is reported that the winged bean can adjust to the climate of the equatorial tropics. Winged bean production is optimal in humidity, but the species is susceptible to moisture stress and waterlogging.”
I have heard that dry winged beans need plenty of cooking to become soft and digestible but have not tried them as dry beans myself – they are on the list of test crops for us.
Final Thoughts on Dry Bean Varieties for the Tropics
If this were my project, I would gather a wide range of bean varieties and test them all over a few years to see which did the best. Sometimes a type will work that you thought wouldn’t – or a sure-fire variety just doesn’t do well under local conditions.
Experiment, experiment, experiment. If you have bed space, definitely grab some Southern peas, lablab, winged beans, pigeon peas and Kebarika… and then spin out from there.
Pintos may do well, or some variety of Roma bean from Italy – you don’t know until you try. I pray you find great success.
If any of you brilliant readers have any further suggestions on dry bean varieties for the tropics, please let me know in the comments.
If there’s something you’ve grown that worked great in the heat and humidity, share it. Let’s help this pastor have success with his gardening experiments!
*Kebarika bean image via Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.