A Tale of Three Heirloom Beans

May 24, 2009

Yesterday Stephen Scott from Terroir Seeds, home of Underwood Gardens and Grandma’s Garden Catalog joined us to share some interesting information about growing heirloom beans and their history, cultivation, and tips for saving bean seeds.

Today Stephen returns to introduce a few specific heirloom bean varieties and offer us insight into their personalities and the folklore behind them.

Mostoller Goose Bean

mostoller-goose-beanThere are several varieties of beans that have stories of being found in the craw of geese or turkeys, and preserved on a local basis for a long time. The Mostoller Goose Bean is one of the better known ones. This is a gorgeous and tasty bean from Somerset County, PA in 1865.

The story first appeared in the Somerset Democrat on December 9, 1925 and was reprinted by Seed Savers Exchange Fall Harvest Edition in 1984. The story goes that John Mostoller shot a Canadian goose and found beans in the craw during cleaning. They planted the beans and saved the seeds over the next 140 years.

The plants have white flowers and produce 5 inch long pods with 4 to 5 beans per pod. The beans are large and white, speckled with brown and maroon with an orange patch over the eye. The colors disappear during cooking.

This a tall vining bean, often topping 10 feet tall! These beans can be grown just about anywhere because they are a short season bean. They can be direct-sown from seed when the soil is warm (day temperatures around 60 degrees Fahrenheit), in full sun and loose, well drained soil. 60 days to production.

Black Valentine Bean

black-valentine-beanThis is a New York heirloom first commercially introduced around 1897 by Henderson and Co, but well known prior to 1850. Black Valentine is best known for its hardiness, dependability under adverse conditions, and resistance to bean mosaic virus.

It germinates well in cool soil, so can be planted early and in 2-4 week successions for longer production. They turn from dusty black to purple when cooked and have a rich nutty flavor with a crisp meaty texture.

These are often described in seed catalogs as the best tasting black beans. Bush plants produce 6 inch long string less pods. 50 days to production.

Lazy Housewife Bean

lazy-housewife-beanKnown in Germany as the Sophia Bean in the mid 1800’s, this bean was introduced by the Pennsylvania Dutch and was well known in the early 1800’s in Bucks County, PA. It was commercially sold by 1890 by William Henry Maule Seed Company from Philadelphia.

It got its unusual name from the fact that housewives did not have to string the bean prior to cooking, and that the beans set in clusters and are easy to pick. First listed by Burpee in 1888, this was the third most popular bean in the US in 1907.

This is a great snap bean, but is most well known as a shelling bean; and is considered by many to have no equal. When dried this is also an excellent soup bean, and is often pureed after cooking.

The vines are strong climbers and will tolerate some shade, often being grown among corn by the Pennsylvania Dutch. The vines will grow to 4-5 feet tall, with white flowers and 6 inch long pods marked by a glossy green, having 5 to 7 beans per pod. 75-80 days to production.

Cindy Scott has a degree in greenhouse management, and is the resident grower in the family. She has been collecting articles on soils, seed saving, and general growing for over 10 years. She developed a Grow Native! Plant Sale and Educational Festival that educates gardeners in the Central Arizona Highlands, that is now in its fourth year.

Stephen Scott has a business background and is an acknowledged chili-head who loves the hotter side of things and loves to cook. The appeal of the garden and growing is to supply the freshest ingredients for the meals! He has a large interest in self sustainability- being able to do and produce most of what one needs. They have built a greenhouse from recycled materials that provides year round produce and plants for the garden.

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