From ‘naturally gorgeous’ Wolfe County, it’s Yvonne Scott, (resident bean counter—literally!)
When we started garden planning last month, nearly everyone had green beans listed on their seeds for this season. OK, great, I’ll just look up the best heirloom varieties for this area and order some. Wait. What did they say? Creasy or greasy beans? Shelly beans? What are those? So I wandered around the internet for awhile and lo and behold, there was Bill Best’s article on the history of Kentucky and Appalachian area beans. WHOA! Little did I realize how many varieties have been growing in this region and still exist. I was excited at first, then overwhelmed, then awed and amazed. Here were goose beans, pink tip, October beans, shucky beans, solider beans, and of course, greasy beans, in color and pattern combinations, mottled, speckled, striped. Who knew? It seemed like county by county, Kentuckians and southern Appalachians had been keeping secret some of the finest green and shell bean varieties I’ve come across. Growing up in central Illinois, we had pole beans and bush beans and if they dried on the vine, we had shell beans. And of course, soybeans. But not here! These mountains contain bean stories-novels really–with each variety a masterpiece of lineage and history as deep and rich and unique as the hollers where they are grown.
I would love to have each of our GA families grow one of these types of beans in addition to the Volunteer Half-Runners we will provide. The great debate we have when puzzling over our budget is whether we should just provide varieties that will produce a good, reliable, consistent crop and the desire to offer these heirlooms and keep their lineage alive.
So I guess we’ll just have to do both! Let the seed saving begin with everyone’s favorite vegetable.
Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste: Heirloom Seed Savers in Appalachia
By Bill Best. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2013.
(Photo courtesy of http://www.heirlooms.org/-seed-catalog.html)