Saturday, February 22, 2014

Heirloom Beans- The Search for the Perfect Bean

Looking for a good reliable source for Heirloom Seeds? My favorites are Baker Creek and Renee's Garden Seeds.

The last couple years I have been on the hunt for the perfect bean. I wanted something that would can and freeze well, make good dilly beans, taste great fresh, be stringless, and have reliably good yields.

Following are a the bean varieties I tried and the results...

  • Provider Bush Bean -  high yields of nice big beans with typical bean flavor
  • Slenderette Bush Bean- thin dark green pods with tender sweet flavor. Ripe earlier than some others
  • Emerite and French Gold Filet Pole Beans - The gold outperformed the emerite, and had tremendous season-long yields! They had a nice flavor and worked well pickled and frozen.They were also very pretty with the long yellow pods.

Lush green growth - pole beans on cedar trellis
I was really hoping for a good bean to make Dilly Beans, and they were all good! I wondered if the thinner beans would be less crisp pickled but they all turned out delicious! The thinner beans tended to be longer, so they filled the quarts nicely. I like to combine yellow and green beans for a nice looking jar of Dilly Beans.

I have also tried growing the purple pod varieties of beans, but gave them up. They do have a nice appearance and flavor, but are not nearly as vigorous as the yellow and green.

My other bean observations -
  • Pole beans with flatter pods do no have the flavor and crispness of the round types
  • Yellow wax beans are also good to mix with the green types
  • The usual Blue Lake types just aren't good enough to be the perfect bean
  • Slender beans are very tasty! 
  • Beans are best picked before they get too ripe - about the thickness of a pencil (thinner for the slender varieties)
  • Pole beans are more prolific and produce longer than bush beans but the flavor is usually not as good. They also use less space because you can use vertical trellises
  • Most bush beans with have one big crop, and then more small crops if you keep them picked
  • Fancy colored and spotted type bean pods will all turn green when cooked (except yellow)