Beans are the ultimate crop.They come in all sorts of sizes, colors, flavors, and there is a bean for every season.In Southern California we are able to grow all sorts of beans all year around.During the summer we can grow common beans, soy beans, lima beans, butter beans, and black eyed peas (yes I know its not exactly a bean but its found next to beans in the grocery store so lets call them beans for simplicity sake.)Beans are great to plant in gardens as they are able to work with bacteria in the soil to help fix nitrogen in forms better absorbed by plants.After the bean grows it is important to recycle the nitrogen by putting the dead plant matter back into the soil.Of course this means that if the bacteria are not abundant in the soil the plants will have a difficult time absorbing nitrogen so they may not do well for a few years until the bacteria to becomes abundant in the soil.Or one can help by adding an inoculate into the soil in form of dried bacterial powder or amending the preexisting soil with healthy soil from a neighboring organic farm or garden.
My search for beans happened when I began searching for the elusive purple fava beans and I came across some great sites.Here are some resources I found which has a great selection of beans:
The first link grows all sorts of native beans from the New World.There are lots of varieties to sort through it's almost over whelming; however, I am sure that you will be able to find a variety that will suit your every need.The second link is one of my favorite seed catalog in the United States.They have a great collection of heirloom beans.The third link offers my elusive purple Guatemalan fava beans.The last link is a seed shop in the UK that offers a wide variety of European heirloom peas and beans that I have never heard of before.I would love to try crossing the Red Flowered Broad Beans with the purple favas to get red flowering purple beans.
Anyways, the best part about beans is that there are many perennial beans so a poor farmer can save money on purchasing fresh seeds every year.Here is a great website I found that talks about perennial crops.They also make lots of great recommendations for tropical areas.
Finally, I wanted to let you know about a seed company that will send 25 free seed packets to registered charities.So if you're working with a church, community service group, or a charity to build a garden then check out Seeds of Change.
I hope this helps.Earl