If you have never grown so-called, “fall beans,” you have missed out on one of the best tasting vegetables in the garden. Fall beans have a taste, so unique from other green beans, that they are their own vegetable. You’ve heard of comparing apples and oranges.
Compare a kettle of fall beans to, say a kettle of half runners or blue lakes and you’ll see what I mean. They will look more like each other than apples and oranges but that’s where the similarity ends. I suspect the reason so few gardeners raise fall beans is because the seeds are so hard to find. Apparently the seeds do not lend themselves to commercial harvesting and, except for one variety, you just about have to find someone who saved some to get started.
There are more than half a dozen distinct varieties of fall beans that range in color from solid white to solid red to solid black to speckled, striped or bi-colored. One of my favorites is called red eyes and Loretta would tell you they are the best canning beans she has ever tasted. I also love a variety called black satin that happens to be the favorite of my sister-in-law, Brenda Joseph. Unfortunately, neither of us has enough seeds saved to share with any readers. Last August and September’s drought did us in.
But here’s the good news! Both R.H. Shumway Seed Company and Vermont Bean Seed Company have a variety they call “lazy housewife beans.” They don’t mention the word “fall” in the title, but take my word for the fact that they are, indeed, my favorite fall bean of all time. Simply google either company and type “lazy housewife” in their online catalogue search bar.
My brothers and I grew up calling them lazy wife fall beans. I have no idea why they, nor any other fall beans, have “fall” in their names because they will all grow well whether they are planted in late April or late July. My brother, Andy, and I have discovered that the red eyes will mature at least two weeks faster if they are planted late. In 2016 we planted them on August 5 and picked a couple bushels near the end of September.
Please note that all varieties of fall beans need to be isolated from other green beans that may be blooming at the same time. Otherwise they will cross-pollinate and you will wind up with numerous, inedible, tough hulls from both varieties. Fall beans will cross-pollinate one another but the hulls won’t get tough. You may wind up with a rainbow of seed colors, but, in my experience, they taste just fine.
Also note that fall beans are big viners and absolutely have to be trellised to a height of six feet or as tall as you can reach. I’ll have more information on bean growing soon but I need to get in one more plug before this column runs out of space and unduly irritates your editor.
In other news, I’m not yet sure what I’ll be doing for a column next week. I’m scheduled for bladder cancer surgery at 5:15 a.m. on Friday, March 13, and figure I’ll still be in the hospital by writing time. If this next go round proves to be as painful as the last two, identical operations I’ve endured over the last four months, I can tell you for sure that I will not have a laptop sitting on my belly for at least a week. If the painkiller works as well as the medical professionals are promising, it’s no telling what I’d write about, anyway.
The current plan is do a piece this week having something gardening related (more beans) that could run anytime this spring. If I’m not able to report on the surgery, Loretta will get it out before next week’s deadline along with a footnote letting readers know how the procedure went. If I get better faster, I won’t let the early effort go to waste. In the meantime your prayers will continue to be much appreciated. The outpouring of support you have already given us is way beyond encouraging and heartwarming. Thank you!