Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Heirloom Pole Beans

This year I decided to grow a different pole bean than I usually grow.  I want to grow mostly heirloom vegetables in my home garden, so I chose purple podded and rattlesnake pole beans. I also planted yard long beans.

Purple Podded Pole Bean Vine
The purple beans grew the first and fastest. The stems of the plant are purple, the flowers are a pretty violet,  and the leaves are a darker green than the other beans.  The beans start out green with a purple tinge, and then get solidly purple velvet over the whole bean when they are ready to pick.   The flavor is deeper than the Kentucky Wonders and Blue Lakes that I have grown before. Cooked, they turn a dusky green that is more blue grey than regular green beans. You can tell when they are just done by catching them the moment they turn from puple to green. Their flavor is sweet and grassy under the normal green bean taste.

Rattlesnake Pole Bean Vine

The rattlesnake beans haven't been the overachievers that the purple podded beans have been, but they flowered and grew beans pretty quickly after the purple ones. The vines aren't as tall yet as the purples, but I have gotten some large beans from them  already.  The rattlesnake plants are green vined with bright green leaves. The flowers are more on the pink side of violet. The beans themselves are flattish with stripes of purple mottling on bright green.  They get more purple mottling the bigger they are, it seems.  Only a few have made it inside to the cooking pot because they taste so good raw. Their flavor is green bean intensified.  Green bean to the second power, sweet and a little bit musky.
Purple pods with  rattlesnake beans
The yard long beans are way behind the other two.  They haven't started flowering yet, and are only about a foot high. I have grown these before, and they never climb very high -- only about to shoulder height. They also set beans a couple weeks after you are getting other beans pretty regularly, and they are not as prolific bearers. But, when they do grow beans, they really work at them and they grow them long and thin. I never waited for them to be a yard long, but instead picked them when they were smaller and sweeter, from 12 inches to 15 inches long. Their flavor was more savory and musky rather than sweet. Some people call them Asparagus beans because of the flavor.  I like the yard long beans for stir frying because they stay crisp in a stir fry and are uniformly narrow all the way down the bean, so they cook evenly over the high heat.

Purple podded vines next to Rattlesnake vines
An added benefit to growing these wonderful heirloom pole beans has been unforeseen.  In years past Japanese beetles (Gracie calls them japaneetles) have found my green bean vines about the time they reached head-high. I have done milky spore applications in the garden area to no avail.  Last year I broke down and sprayed tthe bean plants with Sevin, since the beetles were so bad it looked like we wouldn't have any veggies if we didn't.  Even though I spent an hour or more every morning tapping the vines with a stick to make the beetles roll into a bucket of sudsy water, they still ravaged the plants, especially the top third, which they ate down to the stems.  And each year, once they had found the beans, they infested every other vegetable too. My granddaughter didn't want to play in the bean tunnel, since with every vibration Japaneetles would fall on her head. I didn't blame her!

This year I haven't seen any of those horrible pests on the beans. I found a few on my roses in the front yard, and got them off pretty quickly, and they don't seem to be interested in these heirloom beans at all. This in turn means I haven't had a Japanese Beetle problem in my garden at all so far this year.  I am so happy! Wonderful, tasty, pretty heirloom beans and not a Japaneetle  in sight. Yay!

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