Some bean varieties are low plants growing no more than 30 cms high and others are climbing plants which we generally train up maize plants as a polycrop. In the year 2008 all the bean dishes we served in the hotel restaurant came from our own harvests.
Young bean plants in the vegetable plot
I often wonder if guests realise the work involved in producing dried beans on a small diverse cropping system such as our farm, with no machinery. All very sustainable but very labour intensive. First the beans must be sown, grown and then allowed to dry on the plant, which depending on the variety, can take 3 to 5 months from sowing. At the end of the season if the bean pods are dry enough (which will depend on the late summer weather) the pods can be harvested individually. If they are not dry enough the whole plant is harvested tied in small bundles and left to dry under cover. Then comes the most labour intensive part of the job; taking the dried beans out of the pods. Most pods only contain 4 or 5 beans so it’s a lot of work.
Traditionally in Asturias most fiestas were associated with important labour intensive agricultural jobs. An example being the special meals held through out the “matanza” which is the 2 to 3 day process of slaughtering the pig for making sausages. Another example is the “amaguestu," when people drink “sidra dulce” (young cider) and eat chestnuts, celebrated when the apple harvest and pressing the apples for cider has finished.
Excuse for a fiesta.
So following this tradition we decided to make a small fiesta out of the labour intensive job of shelling of our beans, inviting friends around to help and at the same time having a glass of cider and generally having a good time.