In fact they have gone so far as to call it a blizzard.
What better to do on a nasty winter's night than hunker down and write about vegetables...beans in fact. That's a summery thought.
Just a short story to relay first though about blizzards. I am old enough to remember hearing of THE blizzard...that would be in 1977. If I was actually at home in Ontario when it hit, I would certainly remember it. Seeing the pictures now is astounding.
As it happened I was in California, travelling with a friend and in my late teens. When the news of the blizzard reached me in California, I called home to make sure all was okay with mom and dad.
Well, my mom was fine. My dad on the other hand had done what he did every other morning and headed down to the coffee shop at Clappisons Corners. And of course he couldn't get home.
As I sit here in my warm home, the blizzard approaching, I can't help but think of my dad hunkered down at The Baker's Dozen at Clappisons' Corners in that blizzard. Too funny.
On to the beans however.
This year I ended up saving seed from 22 varieties of beans. At this stage of the game they should all be shelled, but aren't quite. I'm working on it.
Lots of those varieties I am selling seed for,
and they are all special for very specific reasons. I'll talk about a few here.
I began growing Black Valentine a very long time ago, and have offered it in the Seeds of Diversity yearbook for just as long. It is a black seeded bean, a good and reliable producer of 5-6 inch meaty old fashioned flavoured beans.
Provider and Bountiful are two other superb green beans. My sister swears by Bountiful, says she just can't keep up with the beans it pumps out. But she hasn't tried Provider. Both exceptional.
Jade, although not an heirloom is a bean I always like to grow. It is also open pollinated so I am able to save the seed from it. I love the long green beans it produces. It isn't unusual to find 7" beans on this plant, and lots of them at that. Again, wonderful flavour.
If you prefer the classic french filet bean, Fin de Bagnol fits the bill. It is a beautiful dark green slim bean with just so much flavour. I must say, I am partial to these beans when it comes to freezing beans for the winter. I just think they are the best for that. The flavour is beautifully concentrated.
Negritos is a special little bean to me.
I'm a member of Garden Organic in England and also the associated Heritage Seed Library. Every year I have the option of requesting seeds from the Library, and of course that's just what I do. When the seeds come they are treasures, usually very rare and in very limited quantity.
I began with 5 seeds for Negritos and kept saving and saving until I had sufficient seed to offer it. It is small black seed and produces a shortish little flat green bean. I like the flavour a lot, it's a keeper.
Stripes your thing? They are mine...I'm always after something a little different.
Lots of folks know the marvellous Dragon Tongue bean now, that wonderful Dutch heirloom, creamy yellow with purple striping. This bean is a must in my garden, it is absolutely delicious raw or cooked. I know of no other bean that is so fleshy and stays tender even at a larger size. And wow, does it produce!
Two other striped contenders are Bobis Albenga and Blue Ribbon.
These are both green beans with purple striping, but each a bit different .
Bobis Albenga is a slimmer bean, really more the size of a typical green, like Bountiful. My original seed for this bean was acquired years ago from a seed company that is now defunct. Glad I saved the seed. It is one of my favourites.
Blue Ribbon is a wider bean, great for slicing, but still that beautiful green with purple striping.
Rattlesnake is a lovely long green pole bean with purple striping.
(Did I mention the stripes disappear when cooked?-No matter!)
I also have some cool curved beans, that are pole beans, Sultans Crescent, both green and yellow. Last year I found seed for a curved bean that has striping, so am building up my stock of that. It just gets better and better!
Red Swan is the last bean I'll mention here. My original seed was from Robert Lobitz through the Seed Savers Yearbook which I access as a member. Robert has since passed away, but created some fabulous beans in a range of colours, certainly a part of his legacy. Red Swan is a pale purple-red , (see top photo) and is very tasty. There is another similarly coloured bean out there, but I far prefer the flavour of this one.
Beans are easy to grow, and good for your soil as they fix nitrogen.
I am surprised when I see garden centres selling bean transplants now-is this because people are intimidated by seeds? If you are, beans are the best place to start with seed.... and succeed.
They aren't particularly heavy feeders. Compost mixed in your planting area is adequate.
When my soil is warm, early June or so I outline a reasonably deep planting row with my hoe, put an few inches of compost in it, then push the bean seed into the compost to a depth of 2" or so and plant the seed 3" apart. A drink of water and I can expect germination in a week or so.
Beans do not readily cross pollinate, so saving seeds is easy. Leave the beans on the plant until dry. The seeds will rattle in the plant, and the whole plant will look, well, dead. Pick the pods, but leave them in a dry warm area for a few weeks to make sure they are totally dry.
Shell the beans for next years garden seed, and if you have some left over, lucky you! Dried beans for winter meals. You know. Like when there is a blizzard out there!