Grow Red Kidney Beans

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Red Kidney beans are an incredibly healthy choice to include in your garden. Not only are they a rich source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, they contain a significant amount of antioxidants, folic acid, vitamin B6, and magnesium. Because of their high fiber content, eating red kidney beans prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, making them an especially good choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance, or hypoglycemia. And, a cup of cooked kidney beans provides 45.3 percent of the recommended daily intake for fiber.

There are many varieties of red kidney beans to select for your garden such as California dark red kidney, montcalm, mecosta and charlevoix. Charlevoix can be more maintenance to grow as this variety is more prone to viruses and bacteria.

Step 1 - Pick the Proper Place and Time

Start planting your red kidney beans after the frost. Mid May is a good time to begin. Choose an area of your garden that receives full sun. The soil will need good drainage. One cup of organic fertilizer should be prepared with the soil for every 10-foot row you plant.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson adds, "Kidney beans like soil rich in organic matter."

Step 2 - Plant the Beans

Plant the seeds need in 1-inch deep rows, 18 inches apart. Avoid watering plants from overhead. Consider using drip irrigation or you can slow-soak the soil. In the best-case scenario, you may see about an 85 percent germination success rate.

Step 3 - Thin the Sprouts

In about 8 to 16 days, you will see the seeds sprout. The rows should be thinned at this point, keeping the strongest plants with a 3-inch distance between one another. Make certain there is enough room around each plant for good circulation, which will help prevent disease.

Step 4 - Maintain and Harvest

Keep a close eye on your plants. When the pods start to dry out, discontinue watering them. When the seedpods are the color of straw, they are ready for harvesting. Hang the entire plant from the roots to dry.

TIP: Susan advises, "If you pick pods too soon, don't worry; they will continue to dry indoors."

Step 5 - Prep, Cook and Eat

Raw red kidney beans coming directly from the soil contain a toxic substance which can cause illness in humans. To prevent getting ill, red kidney beans should be soaked for at least 5 hours, drained and then boiled for 10 minutes prior to cooking and eating.

Serving Suggestions

Combine cooked red kidney beans with white and black beans to make a colorful three bean salad. Toss in some cubed tomatoes and chopped scallions. Mix a dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and black pepper. Combine together and served chilled for a healthy summertime meal or side salad.

Using a food processor or blender, mix cooked kidney beans with garlic, cumin and chili peppers for a spread that can be used as a vegetable dip, sandwich filling or on wholewheat crackers.

Make vegetarian tacos or burritos by using kidney beans in place of ground meat.

Toss some kidney beans on top of cornbread with some grated cheese. Heat it until the cheese melts. This is great served with spicy salsa dipping sauce.