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By Donna Westfall – January 7, 2018 –
Our rural countryside is abundant with Giant Redwood trees some attaining heights of 350 feet. We’ve got beautiful flora and fauna, craggy rocks in the ocean and a protected bird reserve one-half mile off offshore called Castle Rock that plays host to a dozen species of breeding seabirds.

Del Norte County also grows some beans.

Throughout the world, there are 40,000 different varieties of beans on this planet. Think about it… 40,000!

Think of beans and what comes to mind? Some think chili and beans; and others think flatulence. Gas. Passing Wind. Not part of today’s discussion.

What kinds of beans grow here?
Fava beans, green beans, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, pinto beans, black beans and chick peas also known as garbanzo beans. However, even though peas grow here they are not considered a bean. Here’s a question.  Why even bother to grow beans since they are still so inexpensive to purchase in the market?  Well, maybe not green beans.  And there’s nothing like picking your own fresh green beans from your garden.

BEANS have been around for thousands of years, mostly originating in West Africa, Middle East, South America and Asia.

What about coffee beans, vanilla beans, castor beans, and cocoa beans?  Can they grow in Del Norte County? No, no, yes and no. They’re called beans, but are they?

Coffee beans grow in only one state of the union – Hawaii. Coffee beans are not true beans.

Vanilla beans are an orchid plant whose vines can grow up to 30 feet high. They won’t grow in our environment. They need a tropical climate and Del Norte does not qualify. They are not a true bean.

Castor bean plants are very beautiful, grow quickly, but their leaves and seeds are poisonous.  Eat just six of those seeds and prepare to die. Castor bean is not a true bean. But can grow in our area mostly as an annual.

Cocoa beans are not true beans. They do not grow here. Wish they did.

What about avocado’s?

Here’s where we get into the distinction of bean vs. seeds. Seeds are the complete reproductive material of a plant like avocado, peach, olive, tomato or corn.  All beans are seeds, but not all seeds are beans.

Beans specifically grow in a husk in a pod that splits down both sides. Think peas even though peas are not considered a bean. Think long enough about peas and that brings us to Mendel.

Gregor Mendel, was a botanist, scientist, friar and Abbot of St. Thomas’ abbey in Moravia. He experimented with pea plants and formulated three principles relating to the transmission of genetic traits. He died on January 6, 1884.  He is considered the father of genetics and experimented with 30,000 plants including beans and peas.

Why isn’t a pea considered a bean?  One difference is their stem.  It’s hollow.  Beans have more solid stems.

Understanding the difference between what is and is not a bean is not clear cut. Downright confusing. Also, what else is not clear cut is that no one seems to know who created January 6th as National Bean Day.






They are an important source of protein.

Beans are used for human and animal consumption.

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