Try growing this navy beans in your garden

Published 3:52 pm Friday, January 11, 2019

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Kristi Hendricks

There will be no planting outside today in this January weather. Rather we’ll be cooking inside and longingly gazing out the window at the landscape. Not-yet gelled plans for the coming growing season will continue to swirl in our thoughts.

But back to the task at hand. Herein named is a Virginia-grown bean that is perfect for every Southside soup pot. The navy bean is considered a mild-flavored dry bean. That is, the bean is removed from the pod at maturity after drying and beginning to rattle around inside the pod. It is in good company with such other beans as the pinto and black turtle.

The navy bean is one of many bean varieties in the large genus of annual vegetables in the pea family called Phaseolus vulgaris or just plain old bean. But this bean is not so “common.” After all, the navy bean has served as a food staple of the Navy for over a century beginning when the service was investigating sources for easily stored, low-cost nutrition. This creamy-white (not navy blue as you might suspect) bean is small sized so it is often referred to as the Navy pea.

Not to talk politics in this forum, but the U.S. Senate finds this flavorful bean so delicious that they have their own soup recipe focusing primarily on this ingredient. This specialty soup is served in the Senate’s cafeteria every day. You can find this recipe online at Navy beans are also the bean of choice for “pork and beans” and baked beans in no small part because they don’t mush-up when cooked.

Navy beans are a low-fat, quality source of protein, vitamins and mineral, and a cholesterol-lowering dietary fiber all-star. What better food item to dish up on a cold, dreary winter day? And just as important, navy beans are inexpensive whether in canned or uncooked dried form.

Try growing this leguminous plant in your own garden. Navy bean plants have the knack of acquiring nitrogen from the air and fixing it in the soil, perfect for improving growing conditions. Dried store bought beans can actually be used for growing your own crop.

Short-vine (pole supported) or bush cultivars are available commercially. Select which one to grow based on the space available for cultivation. Choose a sunny, well-drained location in your garden for this field bean. Don’t plant until the fear of frost has passed. Plant five to six seeds in each mound with intentions to thin out when the seedlings are several inches tall. From planting until harvest takes less than one growing season.

For greater insight into the cultural practices of common beans grown locally, e-search VCE publication 426-402 found at


KRISTI HENDRICKS is a member of the Western Tidewater Master Gardeners. Contact her at