Beans are from the genus Phaseolus, an ancient plant variety known in Egyptian times and earlier. The common bean has been a part of the agricultural life of the Americas for 6,000 years. Beans are a mainstay in the diets of many indigenous peoples around the world. They are valued as a good source of protein, carbohydrates and iron. Some common bean types are soybeans, kidney beans, pinto beans and garden peas. Beans are also known as legumes.
Bean seeds are planted 1 inch under the ground in the spring. The seed is watered and the moisture begins to soften the tough exterior shell. In about one week the underground bean seed opens and a sprout appears. The sprout is called a hypocotyl. It develops into the first root structure, pushing the bean seed up toward the soil top.
Water, soil nutrients and sunlight make the bean sprout grow. A process called phototropism begins, causing the growing bean plant to straight its stem and grow upward toward the light. It takes six weeks of growth for the bean plant to enter the stage of flowering and reproduction. During this time the root structure of the plant develops.
Reproduction and Flowering
The bean plant develops many leaves growing off the main stem. Flowers begin to grow at the juncture of the leaf and the stem. The flowers fertilize the plant and allow the next stage of growth to occur. The flowers wither and drop off the plant and the next stage of growth begins.
When the flowers wither small bean pods appear. They are delicate and light green at this stage. The bean pods are sometimes called the fruit of the plant. Bean pods have from 3 to 8 seeds in them, depending on the bean type. Pods are harvested in approximately 60 days, depending on the variety. Bean plants are very prolific producers. A 15-foot row of pole beans can produce 12 pounds of beans.
New Cycle Begins
Some pods are left on the plant to provide seeds for the next harvest season. When the beans are fully matured the pod opens. The beans then fall on the ground or are picked and saved. The beans are left to dry over the winter for next spring's planting. These beans become the seeds of the new bean plants. The life cycle of the bean is now complete.