The Three Sisters: Beans

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Mixed bean soup by Fran W

Did you know…
There are over a 1000 varieties of beans in the world!

Activities: Bean soup and Grow a bean plant

When you are in the mood for a bowl of hearty soup, this is the one you will want make over and over again! Three different cooking methods have been included in the instructions below.  

Here’s what you will need:

Note: If you are planning to do the next activity – grow a bean plant, please remove one or two of the largest beans from the bag before you begin this recipe.

1 lb package dried mixed beans
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
3 carrots, cut into 1/2″ slices
2 stalk of celery with leaves, cut into 1/2″ slices
1-3 lbs pork neck bones
1 tsp basil
3 bay leaves
8 cups chicken broth

Preparing the beans:

To prepare the beans, rinse with cool water and remove stones before soaking overnight in a large bowl.
In the morning, pour beans and remaining water through a colander and rinse beans once more. Setting aside to drain.

When the soup is ready, serve with homemade cornbread and fresh butter.

Stove top method:

Saute the onions and mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat. When the onions become translucent, add the rest of the ingredients to the pot, and stir. When the liquid comes to a boil, stir, reduce heat to low, and put the lid on. Stir occasionally so that sticking does not occur. When the largest beans are soft and tender (about 1:30-2 hours), the soup is ready. 

Slow cooker method:

Saute onions in a little olive oil until translucent and then add them to a slow cooker, along with all the other ingredients. Cook on low until largest beans are soft and tender and serve. Cooking time: about 6-8 hours. 

Pressure cooker method:
Saute the onions and mushrooms in olive oil on medium heat. When the onions become translucent, add the rest of the ingredients to the pot, and stir. After checking to make sure cooker is in good working order, put the lid on securely. When the pressure begins to build and the regulator starts to rock or release steam, reduce the heat to low and allow to cook for 25 – 30 minutes at 15 lbs of pressure. When the timer rings, allow the pressure to reduce naturally before removing lid. If the largest beans are not soft and tender, simmer soup with the lid off until they the are.

Note: The neck bones add flavor and salt to the soup, but you may feel that more is needed, please add salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe makes approximately 8 -10 cups of soup.

Activity 2: Grow a bean plant

To do this project you will need:

2 large beans such as Lima beans
1 small plate
paper towel – folded into quarters
butter knife
diagram of bean plant – scroll down on page for diagram
magnifying glass – optional
small planter filled with soil – optional

What to do:

Soak beans overnight in a bowl of water, then put the beans between the folds of a wet paper towel and check on it a couple of times a day. If the paper towel gets a little dry, add a little more water to keep the towel wet, not soaked. Do this until you see the first root, called the tap root, coming out of the bottom of the bean. Continue to keep the paper towel moist until you start to see the first leaves shooting out of the top of the bean. Once your leaves get to be an inch long, it is time to open one of the beans up and see what’s going on inside. Use the diagram to locate all the parts of the plant and a magnifying glass to get a closer look at the inside of the bean.

Take pictures, draw what you see, take notes, and/or record the whole experience with sound so you can watch it later or share it with someone else!

Optional Activity:

Plant the second bean in soil, put it in a sunny window and watch it grow. Continue to water it when the soil feels a little dry.
You can make this project more interesting by building a bean maze for your plant!


How many different types of dry beans can you identify? How many have you tried?

Learn more:

Learn about different types of dry beans, what they look and what each can be substituted for

Printable bean diagram – labeled

Bean Plant Activities
Kean University offers bean activity pages that include labeled parts.

Instructions to make
a pole bean tee-pee hide-away for young children

Bean Resources on Funschooling & Recreational Learning

Related posts on Funschooling & Recreational Learning…

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