I do like Azuki beans, specially with glutinous rice and black sesame. Insects do also like Azuki, and as I do not use any chemicals, I always harvest with the beans also a good amount of worms.
I sow azuki 40cm apart and about 3cm deep into a mulched bed.
Apart from pulling some occasional weeds I don’t need to do anything. The beans will grow quite quickly and soon with the help of mulch suppress weeds.
One thing though, as azuki are so popular with insects, it might be a good idea to do some kind of protective measures. I don’t want to use chemicals, at least not the toxic ones, so I am looking for something natural. If you know of any good way to protect the beans from worms, please leave a comment below.
It takes about 4 months to full maturity to be used as dried beans. Azuki do set flowers continually, so you will get probably also some small green immature pods together with some already dried mature ones.
Cutting the bean plants above ground level and leaving them for a week or so drying and maturing helps. I use my garden frames so that I can get good air circulation from the bottom as well and can also easily collect any beans which fall out from mature pods.
I use the same threshing method I use for wheat and other grains, but one can easily just put the dry pods or whole plants into a sack and hit it with a stick or stepping on it.
The difference between the light dry pieces of leaves and pods and the heavy beans is quite big, so the winnowing process is really easy. One does need a stronger air stream compared to wheat and azuki can be winnowed perfectly clean.
First I get rid of some larger pieces of pods and leaves using a rough sieve.
Then I use my home made winnower, it is a good idea to use a strong air stream so that damaged or broken beans will be also removed.
After winnowing, the beans are almost clean. Washing and straining helps to get rid of dirt and damaged beans, which float on the surface.
I do the washing in a large bowl, into which I put the beans and fill it with water almost to the top and stir it quickly with hand. The good beans sink to the bottom and a small amount of damaged ones will float on the surface. I do collect the rubbish from surface with a small sieve and repeat this process couple of times and in the end rinse in a strainer. The beans should be then all clean and ready to be dried on racks for storage or further processing.
Sesame is one of my favourite crops. While with rice or spelt there are usually quite many steps to get the final product:
- removing inner hull
With sesame I just cut it and then put it in a drying net until all pods get dry and sesame falls out. Then use 2 different sieves to get almost pure sesame.
I either direct sow it or prepare seedlings and then transplant them into soil with a top layer of mulch. Distance I use for seedlings is 30 cm apart, for direct seeding half of the distance and can thin the sesame later to 30 cm. The mulch does usually last for the whole season keeping the sesame relatively weed-free. Sown in June, it will be ready for harvest in September or October.
I do not do pretty much anything else throughout the growing season except from getting rid of occasional weeds.
Once the flowering came to an end and lower pods are already getting dry, I do cut the sesame and place it into a hanging net. Once all the sesame comes out of the pods (up to 2 weeks), I give it a good shake just to get the few remaining seeds out and just by using 2 different sieves remove the larger and smaller particles while the leftover will be almost pure sesame.
I do wash it quickly in a bowl full of water, collect the floating particles, while “good” sesame should sink to the bottom. I then strain it and proceed directly with roasting.
- spread a very thin layer of sesame on a pan (on our pan I am able to roast around 100 g at a time)
- roast it on low heat until the sesame starts slightly changing colour, be careful though, from that point it goes very fast and it is easy to burn, it is safer to taste few sesame seeds to see if ready (for white sesame I normally straight after washing spread the sesame on the pan still wet and it takes around 20 mins on a low setting – 30% of the “power”