Ice Cream Bean Tree Info: Tips On Growing Ice Cream Bean Trees
The most common question that I get asked is “How do I grow an ice cream bean tree?”
Well, let me tell you, it’s not easy! But don’t worry, there are some tips and tricks that will make your life easier when growing an ice cream bean tree.
What Is An Ice Cream Bean?
An ice cream bean is a type of fruit that grows from an underground pod. They are very small, usually less than half an inch (15 mm) long and one quarter inch (6 mm) wide. The pods are filled with a soft white pulp that tastes like milk chocolate or vanilla, but isn’t too sweet. They have no seeds and are considered edible if they aren’t overripe or rotten.
How Do You Grow An Ice Cream Bean Tree?
There are two ways to grow an ice cream bean tree. One way is to plant them directly into the ground, which requires a little more care and attention. Another method is to use containers, such as plastic buckets or water bottles, that you fill with soil and then place inside a larger pot filled with peat moss. This allows air circulation around the roots so they don’t dry out as quickly. When winter comes, you simply remove the pots and repot them in spring.
3) Soil And Location Are Important
The soil for the ice cream bean tree should be loose, well-draining and heavy in organic material. A good choice is to mix potting soil with some compost or rotted manure.
They need a lot of sunlight so a bright location is best. Keep in mind that they will get taller as they grow so don’t plant them too close to a building or structure.
The soil for your ice cream bean tree should be damp, not soaking wet. Check it with your finger to see if it is dry several inches down and then water it if it is. In the heat of the summer, you may need to water it once a day or even twice a day if the weather is very hot. Be careful not to over water them though.
It’s better to let them get slightly dry before you water them again.
Use a 1/4 strength general purpose fertilizer at half strength when watering your plant. This should provide plenty of nutrients for the plant without being too much. Don’t increase the amount of fertilizer or the frequency that you fertilize as this could damage the plant.
6) Pests And Diseases
The main problem that most people have with their ice cream bean trees is insects and diseases. Aphids, whiteflies, leaf miners, mealy bugs, and vine weevils all love to eat the leaves of the plant as well as the buds and flowers. It is very important to keep on top of any problems with these pests as they can quickly destroy your plant.
7) When To Harvest
An ice cream bean tree takes a little over a year to grow enough beans to harvest. At that point, you can pick them and eat them fresh. It is best to pick them just as the pod starts to swell. Let them dry for a few days and then store them in a jar away from heat or sun so that they don’t go bad.
They should last for several months.
The flowers of the plant are edible too. Pick them shortly after they bloom and eat them fresh. They have a slightly different taste than the beans, but some people like them better.
In late winter or early spring just as the new growth starts, you should prune your plant back to about six inches (15 cm). This will force the plant to put its energy into growing strong stems and leaves rather than flowers and seeds. New growth should start quickly so you can harvest ripe beans by late summer.
Pruning also prevents the plant from getting “leggy” which means that it doesn’t have a strong stem and just uses stems that reach out to grab support from their neighbors. If left unchecked, the entire plant can become weak and susceptible to falling over in the next good windstorm.
9) Growing More Than One Plant
You may want to consider growing more than one plant. They do somewhat self-seed, but not very easily. If you want to increase your plantings, you can always take some of the dried seeds and plant them in another pot. Just keep them well watered until they start growing.
Don’t expect them all to survive though. The plant seems to have a fairly high rate of failure for seedlings for some reason.
Keeping Them Healthy
Like most plants, ice cream bean trees prefer a little loving care. Here are a few tips that will keep your plants growing strong.
1) Fertilize them every couple of months with a good general purpose fertilizer.
2) Pick off any flowers as soon as you see them to encourage the plant to grow more beans.
3) Trim off any brown or dead looking leaves as they often indicate problems in the soil or environment that will quickly kill the entire plant if not addressed.
4) Water them regularly, but don’t get them wet.
Wet roots often rot and kill the plant.
5) They prefer full sun, but can handle a little shade.
That’s really about it. As long as you keep them growing healthy, they should produce beans for many years to come.
Harvesting And Storage
You can start harvesting the ripe pods as soon as they are a full yellow color. Pick them every few days when you notice this color starting to develope.
The plant will continue to produce for many months, but you need to store the beans properly to make sure they don’t go bad before you eat them.
Many people use mason jars for storage, but I like to use old ice cream containers. Not only are they the perfect size, but the cover keeps out all the light that causes them to go bad.
To prepare the container for storage, simply place several dried beans in the container and cover with a good quality salt. Any kind of salt will do, but the iodized stuff seems to work the best.
Add more salt and beans until you have used up all your beans. Be sure to label the container so you know what is inside. Store the container in a cool, dry location.
The salt will naturally draw out all the moisture from the beans making them safe from mold and rot. They should last at least six months to a year before you need to replace the salt which you can do by setting the container in a shallow bowl of salt and shaking well.
Use Your Ice Cream Container For Storage
You can also just save the containers that your beans come in when you buy them. This is a good idea if you plan to use all of them in the next couple months because it makes storage much easier.
However, once you open the container you need to change the storage method. Beans left in the plastic containers will quickly become packed with moisture and go bad long before they should.
To prepare the container for storage, remove as many of the beans as you think you will need for the next several months. Spread these out on a paper bag (the thin brown ones work best) and let them dry for at least a day.
Dry beans can then be stored in any kind of airtight container away from light and they should last at least a year.
Cooking With Your Ice Cream Beans
Cooking with your own ice cream beans is very easy. Just like with buying them, you can make all kinds of sweets or use them in place of chocolate.
Here are a few recipes to get you started.
Cooking With Beans Ice Cream
2 cups half and half
1 cup whole milk
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa powder (the best you can afford)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
In a medium saucepan, bring the half and half to just under a boil over medium heat.
Remove from heat and whisk in the milk, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt until it is all incorporated.
Stir constantly while you put the saucepan back on the burner and continue to heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a low boil.
Continue cooking for 1 minute more while stirring constantly.
Remove from heat, pour into mugs and serve.
Never put all of your beans in one container! Always keep at least half of them out so you can still make ice cream.
You can store the milk and cocoa powder (after it has cooled completely) in the same container for a few months. If you make this recipe often then keeping everything in one container is fine, just mark the date you made it on the side of the container. Flush it all down the sink before it gets over a year old though.
Cooking With Beans Fudge
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (use the good stuff)
1/2 cup milk or dark chocolate chips (again, use the good stuff)
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules or powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract * (see note)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup finely chopped walnuts, almonds or a mix (optional)
In a medium saucepan, stir together both sugars, the chopped chocolate, butter, coffee and vanilla extract. Cook and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Continue to cook and stir for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the white chocolate and nuts, if desired. Quickly spread into a buttered 8-inch square baking pan. If you are adding nuts, use a spatula to spread the chocolate as it will be very hot. When cooled and set, cut into pieces.
Makes about 16 pieces.
To avoid the hassle of cooking with beans, you can just use 1 cup of good quality chocolate chips instead of all the ingredients.
Vanilla extract is used in both recipes above, because it intensifies in flavor as it gets older. If you are using a fresh bottle that hasn’t been opened yet, then just add a few drops to each recipe. But if you have an older bottle, say a year or more, then add up to 1/2 teaspoon more to each recipe.
Serving Your Beans and Beans
You can always use your ice cream beans in place of regular chocolate chips in any cookie or candy recipe. They can be a little bit messier to work with, but the results are just as good.
The fudge recipe can be cut down and made into truffles if you prefer. Just roll the cooled mixture into bite-size chunks and then roll each one in cocoa powder, nuts or coconut before placing them in the fridge to set.
If you have any leftover beans after making the recipes above, they can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to a month.
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Sources & references used in this article:
Chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla: a history of American ice cream by H Selby, T Ecott – 2005 – Grove Press
Production of ice cream with carob bean pekmez (molasses) by AC Funderburg – 1995 – books.google.com
Of Sugar and Snow: A history of ice cream making by A Badem, Z Alpkent – International Journal of Environment …, 2018 – academia.edu
Ice Creams, Sorbets & Gelati: The Definitive Guide by GM Quinzio – 2009 – books.google.com