This year I learned about a new plant. Well, new to me. Wild Kidney Bean or Thicket Bean, is not only pretty but also edible, a fantastic combination for any native plant.
This is a relative of the cultivated lima bean is smaller and much cuter! A perennial, climbing vine WKB will thrive at the woodland edge or anywhere it gets little to no shade. When happy it can climb up to 20 feet tall with a minimal spread. The seeds, however, can disperse several feet and will easily sprout.
"The dried beans are collected out of the garden before the pods shatter and are prepared in much the same way we prepare any other dry bean, by soaking and boiling. Changing the cooking liquid half way through cooking eliminate the bitterness that I find with this bean. Immature pods are too fibrous to be eaten as a green bean, and the tiny flowers, while beautiful, are slightly bitter." - Luke Smithson (cryofthebolete.com)
One of the reasons for its obscurity is it is loosing habitat and rarely found in the wild. Having a specimen of Wild Kidney bean will help maintain the species but also be the envy of all your gardening friends.