The Magic of Beans


The White Flower Beans are in full bloom. As an experiment, this year I am trimming half of the vines once they get about seven feet tall. I’m also thinning the number of flowers on these vines to see if this will result in larger beans. It works for many other fruits and vegetables, why wouldn’t it work for beans? This fall I’ll compare the beans from the trimmed vines to the untrimmed vines and see if there is a difference.


A steady stream of bees visit the bean vines all day long. They find plenty of food in the blossoms and make sure that many flowers get pollinated in return.
[wpvideo 82GhoJ5r]

Bean Power

Few plants match beans for their growing power. These are White Flower Beans – 白花豆 – known for their beautiful white flowers when they bloom. They are huge, white beans, more than an inch long. They do well in cooler climates so they are a good match for a man and his hoe®.


I have them growing on poles as well as welded wire fence panels which I’ve attached to poles. With the welded wire panels, I can train the vines to grow horizontally as well as vertically, making a wall of beans. In a few more weeks, they will be in full bloom. Harvest time is usually September into October. The beans grow in huge pods with three to six beans in a pod.


Watching them grow is like watching a monster devour a city. This year, I will be topping the vines once they reach the tops of their poles or fill out the welded wire panels. Left unchecked, they will spiral up into the heavens.


Check back with me in the October. I may have some extra for sale. Your chances of finding this special bean in your grocery store are slim to none. Few farmers grow pole beans because they are so much work. Highly mechanized agriculture limits beans to those that can be easily managed and harvested with machinery. Pole beans have been tossed out of the repertoire of grown beans in exchange for easy harvested bush beans. There are some 40,000 varieties of beans. The next time you go shopping, count how many varieties your find for sale. Ten? Twenty? Thirty? It’s just a tiny, tiny fraction out of all the wonderful varieties of beans there are.


Shirohana-mame – White Flower Beans

This is one bean you probably won’t find in your store. The white beans are huge and delicious. Called Shirohana Mame 白花豆 in Japan, the name means White Flower Bean. The beans get that name from the beautiful white flowers of the bean plant.


I’ve been growing this bean for a number of years, and this year I am planting 3,000 of them. I may even have some left over this fall if you would like to try them. The beans are a runner bean, Phaseolus cockiness, and grow on long vines. They are originally from Central America. In Japan they are cultivated where summers are cool in the mountain valleys of Nagano, Gifu, Tohoku and Hokkaido.

They aren’t a bean whose cultivation can be mechanized, which means they require a lot of hands-on work to grow. You have to grow them on poles and pick them by hand. This isn’t the type of food normal food channels want to deal with. So you’re left to find small farmers growing them with a lot of love. I don’t know of anyone in the US growing them on a large scale. By the time I have my 3,000 beans growing, I may have the largest Shirohana Mame field in the country. I’ll let you know this fall how mine did.