Cherokee Trail of Tears

I love growing heritage seeds, especially those which have a great history behind them and Cherokee Trail of Tears sure has a history behind it, although not one that you could call “great”.

In the 1830’s, the US government forecebly marched over 40,000 Native Americans from their traditional homelands in the south west of the United States to make way for white settlers. Thousands of Native Americans died on the way and the march was named the Trail of Tears. These beans are reputed to be one of the things they were able to carry with them. The black beans have a lovely flavour and can be used in chillies, stews, rice or tortilla. They have been added to the Slow Foods Arc of Taste.

If you want to give them a go they are similar to a climbing French Bean to grow. The beans pods are a reddish/purple and can be cooked whole when small but are mainly grown to full size and left to dry on the vine. They will fully ripen in even a mediocre British summer.

When you harvest the pods should be completely dried out, Remove the bean seeds from the pods and you might want to give them some additional hour in a dehydrator or an oven on its lowest setting with the door ajar just to make sure they are dried out. Then store in an air tight container where they will keep for at least a year.

To cook the dried beans cover the beans in double their weight in water and soak for at least seven hours. Discard the water and place in a sauce pan with double their volume of water. Bring to the boil and boil for ten minutes. Simmer for an additional 40 minutes (or if using a pressure cooker follow your appliance instructions). Do not be tempted to eat undercooked beans of any sort as they can be toxic.

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In the kitchen

Use anywhere that you might use kidney beans such as in chillies, stews, soups, rice or tortillas.

To cook the dried beans cover the beans in double their weight in water and soak for at least seven hours. Discard the water and place in a sauce pan with double their volume of water. Bring to the boil and boil for ten minutes. Simmer for an additional 40 minutes (or if using a pressure cooker follow your appliance instructions). Discard the water used to cook the beans. Add the fully cooked beans to your chosen dish at the end of cooking.

Do not be tempted to eat undercooked beans of any sort as they can be toxic. Do not cook dried beans in a slow cooker as the temperature is insufficient to destroy the toxins.

Yield

8 plants 100 g

Suppliers

Reel Seeds

Growing

Sow indoors no more than three weeks before the last frost, 5 cm deep in root trainers or a 9cm pot. Once all risk of frost has passed, harden off the beans by placing outside during the day and bringing in at night or placing in a cold frame and lifting the lid during the day. Repeat for a week. Plant out, 15cm apart and 60cm between rows.

Alternatively sow directly in mid May.

They will need a trellis or other support up to two metres high. You will need to tie them to the support at first but after that they should climb up themselves.

Remove the tips once the beans have reached the top of the support. Keep well watered and in July mulch with compost.