You can put these pretty purple tepary flowers on your computer desktop if you click here to download a large version of this image.
Phaseolus acutifolius has cute little acute leaves.
The tepary bean is a twining annual vine with leaflets in threes, pale purple flowers, and 3-4 in (7-9 cm) pods. The pods are a little hairy, green when fresh and dry to a light straw color. Each pod usually has five or six small beans that look like little lima beans. Wild teparies are quite viney, scrambling over desert shrubs and cacti. The cultivated varieties (var. latifolius) are semi-vining or bush types. There are several named cultivars, varying in color and adapted to differing growing conditions.
Tepary beans (Phaseolus acutifolius) are grown in desert and semi-desert conditions in Arizona, Mexico and southward to Costa Rica. The beans were first domesticated in Mexico and have been found in archaeological sites dating to 5000 years before present.
Culture Light: Grow in full sun. Moisture: Drought tolerant, tepary beans can grow in climates with as little as 16 in (40 cm) of rain per year. However, they do need a good rain to germinate and get started. Teparies may not do well if they get too much rain. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7-10. Tepary beans are grown as annuals and require about 75-85 days to mature. They do best in hot, dry climates. Propagation: Seeds can be sown late in the season since they require only 75-85 days to maturity. Some (but not all) varieties are short-day length bloomers and will not flower if planted in early spring.
Miss Diane shelling teparies
Ripe but not dry, tepary beans shell out quite easily.
Tepary beans are typically harvested in the dry stage - or just before, since when fully dry, the pods split open by themselves and scatter beans all over the place. The whole plant is pulled up and threshed to separate out the beans. But like other kinds of beans, teparies can be harvested in the shellie stage, and that's the way I prefer them.
Tepary beans are not as productive as other beans; they are small and the plants produce a relatively small crop. However, teparies contain 23-27% protein, the highest of any bean except soy. They have higher levels of oils and the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and potassium than other beans. Tepary beans are lower in polyunsaturated fat and lower in the starchy compounds that make other beans hard to digest (i.e. less tooting). Teparies have a sweet, nutty flavor, quite different from other beans. Teparies cook faster than other beans and have a creamier texture when cooked. They are most often used in soups.
Among the 20 or so species in the genus Phaseolus, only a few are regularly cultivated for food. Runner beans (P. coccineus), lima or butter beans (P. lunatus), and common beans (P. vulgaris) are the most well known.