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#SproutChallenge Lesson 3: We’re spilling the BEANS

Beans sprouting

Callie’s Beans Sprouting.

It’s week three of the #SproutChallenge What is the biggest difference you have noticed in your plants? Last week we were able to see the radicle, or embryonic root, emerging from Peggy’s corn kernel. Let’s take a look at another plant in the museum’s virtual garden. Callie Bennett, the museum’s assistant educator, sprouted a bean plant from dry black beans she had in her pantry. 

Can you spot the radicle coming out of the black bean above? Callie documented the first appearance of a radicle on day 3, and five days later she noticed leaves. Can you spot the leaves in the picture below? 

Callie's Black Beans

Callie’s Black Beans.

The black bean that Callie is sprouting is part of a larger group of beans known as the common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris. The common bean is a member of the legume family. Legumes are plants that have seeds that dry in pods, and we call that dry seed a pulse. Can you think of any examples of legumes? If you’ve ever had peas, peanuts, lentils, or soybeans you’ve eaten a legume!

The common bean is one of five domesticated bean species. It includes many familiar varieties such as green beans, kidney beans, navy beans, and pinto beans. These beans are excellent sources of protein and fiber, and are also good sources of manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc, and potassium. Beans not only pack a nutritional punch to our diets, they are also budget friendly and can be adapted for long-term storage in your pantry.

In last week’s blog, we discussed the companion planting approach that native cultures in the past used for three crops: corn, beans, and squash. Archaeological evidence and oral histories like the The Three Sisters tell us that Native Americans in North America were growing beans in the past, but how long had this particular legume been around? Genetic research of archaeological and modern bean samples has indicated that the common bean we enjoy today has not one, but two distinct origins: people in both Mesoamerica and the Andes domesticated the common bean. From there, archaeologists, using advanced technologies on charred bean remains, trace the common bean arriving into Eastern North America sometime around AD 1100, likely along trade routes. Native people in Tennessee started planting beans with their other crops – including corn and squash – shortly after AD 1300. You can read more about the museum’s research into bean domestication here.

We hope you’ve BEAN enjoying learning about our community garden. Don’t forget to check back in with us next week to see how we’re growing!