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How to Grow Tepary Beans

Finding crops that survive Arizona’s hot and dry summers can be challenging. However, due to its heat and drought tolerance, the tepary bean (Phaseolus acutifolius) has thrived in this climate for thousands of years. Learn how to grow tepary beans and add this tasty crop to your summer and monsoon garden.

Finding crops that survive Arizona's hot and dry summers can be challenging. However, due to its drought tolerance, the tepary bean (Phaseolus acutifolius) has thrived in this climate for thousands of years. Learn how to grow tepary beans and add this tasty crop to your summer and monsoon garden.

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What makes tepary beans well-suited to grow in the desert?

Finding crops that survive Arizona's hot and dry summers can be challenging. However, due to its drought tolerance, the tepary bean (Phaseolus acutifolius) has thrived in this climate for thousands of years. Learn how to grow tepary beans and add this tasty crop to your summer and monsoon garden.

Tepary beans prefer warm weather and are well-suited for hot climates. The history of these legumes in Arizona dates back about 1000 years in Hohokam culture. These sturdy beans tolerate arid conditions and can survive with minimal irrigation, making them perfect for regions with limited rainfall. 

How to Grow Tepary Beans

Here are some of the adaptations that allow tepary beans to grow so well:

  • The reproductive cycle from blossom to bean happens quickly, allowing them to use moisture when available. 
  • Their roots also grow deep, allowing the plant to access water unavailable to other more shallow-rooted crops. 
  • Amazingly, the pollen in tepary bean flowers is viable at temperatures above 105°F (40°C). 
  • The leaves track the sun and “tilt parallel” to lower the surface temperature of the plant. 

Planting tepary beans

Tepary beans are smaller than typical dry beans and come in various colors, from white to brown to black. Seeds are available from Native Seeds Search online

How to Grow Tepary Beans

Traditionally, tepary beans are planted with the monsoon moisture in July or early August. You can also plant in March for a less-traditional earlier harvest. 

How to Grow Tepary Beans

When choosing a location to grow tepary beans, make sure the soil is loose and well-draining. If you have clay soil, amend it with compost to improve drainage and prevent rotting. 

How to Grow Tepary Beans

Plant the seeds 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep and 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) apart. Allow the beans room to bush and vine. You can grow up a trellis if desired. Tepary beans can grow in full-sun conditions

Tepary beans climbing okra as a companion plant
Tepary beans climbing okra as a companion plant

Try growing tepary beans as a companion plant or cover crop (similar to cowpeas). I’ve grown tepary beans with corn and okra. The beans vine and climb up the plants quickly. 

Tepary beans thrive in Arizona's hot, dry climate. Learn how to grow them and add this tasty crop to your garden.
Tepary beans climbing the corn as a companion plant

Tepary bean growing tips

If it doesn’t rain, water deeply but infrequently. Excess water produces lush, vegetative growth but fewer beans. 

As the beans grow, blossoms will develop, and then the beans will form. Once the pods begin drying out, discontinue watering. 

Tepary beans are generally resistant to pests. However, tepary beans can harbor bean common mosaic virus that can transfer to other beans. Monitor plants for signs of disease. Symptoms include mosaic patterns on the leaves, along with puckering or curling. Pull and destroy affected plants. 

As the beans grow, blossoms will develop, and then the beans will form. Once the pods begin drying out, discontinue watering. 

As the beans grow, blossoms will develop, and then the beans will form. Once the pods begin drying out, discontinue watering. 


Harvesting and storing tepary beans

Tepary beans thrive in Arizona's hot, dry climate. Learn how to grow them and add this tasty crop to your garden.

Tepary beans typically mature in 60-120 days and are ready for harvest when the pods turn dry and brittle. For small amounts of beans, hand pick the seed pods

Tepary beans typically mature in 60-120 days and are ready for harvest when the pods turn dry and brittle. For small amounts of beans, hand pick the seed pods. 

To harvest the tepary beans from larger plantings:

  • Cut the plant off at soil level when most pods are dry (but before they split open). 
  • Place plants on a tarp or sheet in a dry location long enough to allow the remaining pods to dry. 
  • As the pods dry in some varieties, they will open, releasing the beans. If the pods do not release the beans naturally, crushing the plant can help the beans to drop. 
  • Collect the sizeable dried-out plant matter, shake out any additional beans.
  • Sift/winnow the beans from the chaff.

Tip: Use the dried-out plant material as mulch on your garden beds. The leaves will quickly break down, adding organic matter to your soil.

Tepary bean plant matter being used as a cover crop or "straw" mulch for growing potatoes
Tepary bean plant matter being used as a cover crop or “straw” mulch for growing potatoes

I’ve used dried tepary bean plant matter as “straw” to grow potatoes in. It worked very well! Learn more in this article.

Allow beans to dry for about two weeks. Store the dried beans in airtight containers in a cool, dark place to maintain their quality and extend their shelf life.


How to use tepary beans 

Tepary beans have a slightly nutty flavor and a creamy texture when cooked. Here are a few suggestions on how to use and enjoy them:

Tepary beans thrive in Arizona's hot, dry climate. Learn how to grow them and add this tasty crop to your garden.
  • Add cooked tepary beans to salads, soups, or stews, or chili for a delicious and protein-packed meal.
  • Mash cooked beans with garlic, herbs, and spices to create a flavorful bean dip.
  • Use tepary beans as a filling for tacos or burritos, combined with your favorite vegetables and seasonings.
Tepary beans have a slightly nutty flavor and a creamy texture when cooked. Here are a few suggestions on how to use and enjoy them:

Sources I used for information about tepary beans: 

https://plants.usda.gov/DocumentLibrary/plantguide/pdf/cs-pg_phac.pdf

https://ipm.ucanr.edu/agriculture/dry-beans/bean-common-mosaic/


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If this post about how to grow tepary beans was helpful, please share it:


Tucson

Monday 16th of October 2023

I have harvested many of my dried teparies. However, in a few that I opened the beans were still green. What should I do with these?

Angela Judd

Tuesday 17th of October 2023

Allow them to dry naturally. Don't put them in an enclosed container until they are completely dry.