Sunday, November 27, 2005

Heirloom Bean Surprise

Back in late October, I pulled out the beans vining up the fence, mostly already dead. I set the bean pods aside on the table on the back porch to shuck later, knowing they'd dry out nicely on the screened porch, and be safe from insects or critters.

I finally got around to bean-shucking in late November, and ended up with about two cups of my friend Monte's Italian Heirloom beans. We had eaten most of them fresh as whole beans. When young, they were stringless, flat, and delicious. Older, they were still very good, but had strings along the sides and a tendency to have hard tips at the stem end.

I'd let a few pods mature along the way, and set aside another couple of quarter-cups from two different batches as seed for 2006. While threshing this last, and largest simultaneous, bean harvest (by hand, of course, such a tiny batch), I found one pod with some kind of interesting mutant or throwback. The pod didn't appear significantly different from any of the other pods, but the contents, as you can see, are quite different.

I am looking forward to planting these, far from other beans (avoiding cross-pollination), to see what they turn out to be like. You can see there's quite a bit of variation within the 'normal' beans-- shades of slight pinkness in some of them, more or fewer stripes, a fat roundness vs a more slabby shape, etc. The pods had some scarlet variegation that faded as they dried, with about 30% of the pods having barely visible marks instead of the pronounced ones, and maybe 10 - 20% being just plain yellow/tan when fully mature, with no markings. These brown beans were from an unmarked pod I think. I should have saved it and taken a photo with them, as they could have helped identify the variety.

Could be a cross-breed from the neighbor's beans, could be an early foundation stock breeding randomly true. The latter would be exciting, as folks often find they can renew or restore old varieties when they get a rare throwback. We'll see what happens!