One of the fondest memories I have of gardening with my dad when I was a kid is picking and eating green beans right off the vine. The smell and taste of fresh-picked pole beans is one of my favorite sensations of summer.
This year, I've been happy to have several towers of beans thriving around my garden. Regular readers of this blog (aka my parents) know that my big summer garden plans don't always pan out. But, this year, I have had some success--and, of course, several failures. My pole beans are my biggest triumph so far.
I have one tower growing in the upper bed, and three more down below in the lower raised bed. All are currently covered in leafy vines and starting to create pods. I am growing pole beans, because I like the winding vines and they save space. The varieties I picked this year, Kentucky Wonder and Cherokee Trail, are from Seed Savers.
The Cherokee Trail beans have black seeds and dark pink flowers. They haven't made pods yet, so I can't speak to their taste, but here's the interesting description from the Seed Savers site:
(Phaseolus vulgaris) (aka Cherokee Black) Given to SSE in 1977 by the late Dr. John Wyche, SSE member from Hugo, Oklahoma. Dr. Wyche’s Cherokee ancestors carried this bean over the Trail of Tears, the infamous winter death march from the Smoky Mountains to Oklahoma (1838-1839), leaving a trail of 4,000 graves. Green 6" pods with purple overlay, shiny jet-black seeds. Good for snap beans and dry beans. Pole habit, snap or dry, 85 days.I love their descriptions of heirloom varieties. They really add an extra layer of historical interest--and drama--to regular old vegetable gardening. Plus, it makes you feel like you're helping carry on a tradition just by planting them.
The beans we're currently eating are the Kentucky Wonders from the upper bed, which I planted first. My upper bed hasn't done so well lately. It's exposed to chicken interference and skunk destruction, and I worry the soil is a little tired. But the pole beans don't mind--perhaps because they grow upward and away from those pesky animals. When they reached the top of their pole tower, I attached a string, and have been training the vines that way.
I really like how that looks, maybe because it gives an impression of overflowing abundance. Or maybe it's because the delicate bean flowers are more exposed.
So, it looks like we'll be enjoying fresh beans for at least another month, maybe longer. My son is not a huge fan yet, but he's had some bites and plans to have more. I'll make him a pole bean lover by summer's end, I'm sure.