Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Comparison of the Heirloom Beans I Grew 2012 Part 1

This year I decided to grow several different types of heirloom beans. What I wanted was to find at least one bean that I loved enough to plant every year and save my own seeds.

I grew Scarlet Runner beans, Mississippi Cream peas, Pink Eye Purple Hull peas, Lazy Wife beans, Good Mother Stallard beans, Ruth Bible beans, Louisiana Purple Pod Pole beans and Trail of Tears beans.

I am going to leave the Trail of Tears beans out of my evaluations, because I had to pull them and didn't get a good read of how they grow.

This will be divided into two posts so that the posts are not so long.

Scarlet Runner bean flower in my front yard
Scarlet Runner beans: These grow better in cooler soil than any of the other beans I planted. Biologically, they are not the same (and therefore won't cross) with common beans. I planted them early, because it warms so fast in the spring around here.

They grew really well in my yard, and made beautiful flowers. They attracted hummingbirds. They weren't bothered by any pests. My family and I just didn't like the taste. If I were growing these for their beauty only, I would grow them every year. But I am not. I am trying for beans we can eat. We were completely turned off by the taste.

Okra on the left, with Mississippi Cream peas and one
little Pink Eye Purple Hull pea (the one purple one). 

Mississippi Cream peas:  These peas like it HOT. The hotter the weather the better they like it. These plants are not going to do well until the soil is properly warmed, so wait until after all threat of frost is past to plant them.  They are not in the same family (and therefore, won't cross) with common beans. They grow in long, trailing vines. In my garden, they were very aggressive, running over other plants in their eager pursuit of sunshine.

They grew very well in my garden. I loved the way they took over everything in their path. My whole family enjoyed the taste. I found out after planting them that they are an heirloom of my husband's family.  We never tried them this way, because I only found out that you can eat the pods after the season was over, but they supposedly make great green beans, too.

I cannot praise these peas enough. We will definitely grow them again and I plan to devote much more space in the garden to these beauties.

From 40 plants, I harvested 413 pods.

Pink Eye Purple Hull peas (see the picture above):  These are in the same family as the Mississippi Cream peas. They will cross with Mississippi Cream peas, but not with common beans. They grow as little bushy plants, sometimes throwing off a runner or two. These are a staple in the Southern US. I have eaten them all my life. They are available everywhere in the summer time.

I didn't enjoy growing these very much. The plants didn't do very well for me. They were covered in aphids. The fact that they grew in bushes rather than vines means that I would have to have more space to be able to get a proper harvest. The purple pods are really striking, but none of the purple pods got as long in my garden as the Mississippi Cream peas.

We will not be planting these next year. I am going to devote all that space to the Mississippi Cream peas.

Out of 100 plants we harvested 100 pods.

Left to right: Lazy Wife Beans, Ruth Bible Beans and Trail of Tears
Lazy Wife beans (also called Lazy Housewife beans): These are common beans. They will cross with any other common bean variety, but not with runner beans or cowpeas. I planted these because I liked the name and the story behind them. They were described as heavily producing beans and completely stringless. These beans are supposed to be the wide and flat variety, not the ones like haricot verts.

The bean seed I bought must have been contaminated somehow, because the beans had strings. I don't have a scale, but I carefully counted each bean pod we brought into the house in order to try to get a good idea how much production we were getting from different types of beans.

Of the beans I planted, I ended up with 35 plants. I harvested 596 pods. They were in the garden the same amount of time as the Ruth Bible beans and yet they didn't produce as many pods as the Ruth Bible beans.

Ruth Bible beans: (see the picture above, center bean)  These are common beans. They will cross with any other common beans, but not with runner beans or cowpeas. I planted these because I like the name. They are becoming very scarce.

These beans produced like "a house afire"! Oh my. They outproduced everything in my garden this year. I stared out eating them as green beans, and they have the old fashioned green bean flavor when cooked that way. I didn't like stringing the beans, and they produced so much that I had a hard time keeping up with the green bean picking, so I started eating them as "shelly" beans. Our family enjoyed the flavor much better that way.

As for numbers, they were in the ground the same amount of time as the Lazy Wife beans. I had 20 plants that grew. I harvested 901 pods. Yes. That is right. If you look at the number of plants I had in the ground, I harvested more pods off of less plants with the Ruth Bible beans. This is important for my family, because we have only a small plot of ground to work. If I can get 901 pods off of 20 plants, and only 596 pods off of 35 plants, I am going to choose the one that I can harvest more for less plants.


  1. I am amazed at the detailed information that you and some of the other bloggers keep! Puts me to shame! Nancy

    1. Well, I had a goal with the beans. I wanted to see which ones performed best in my small garden. I wanted to have hard data and not feelings to base my judgments on, and I was too cheap to buy a scale, so I counted everything. Yes, I am a bean counter. lol.

  2. Thanks for sharing. I am looking for new beans to try bc my production has been too low. I had the same results with purple hull. I can't wait to try the cream peas you sent me. THANKS! for those!

    1. I thought if I actually kept count for one season I could get a numerical comparison of the types of beans I grew. That way, I wouldn't go by feelings, but could see which one would actually be the most productive. Unfortunately, I got tired of counting by the end of the year.

      You are welcome for the cream peas. I hope they are very successful for you.

  3. Thanks for sharing these results. Even though I don't comment often, I'm always interested to see how you utilize your small garden area, since I also have a small garden area. I haven't managed a good solution for beans yet, but may work that out for next spring.

    1. I am glad that you read the blog. And love to hear your comments. :)

      If you come up with a good solution for your beans, post it on your blog. I would love to read what you come up with.

  4. I have the exact same problem with my purple hulls being covered in aphids. I have decided starting next year and going forward that I am not growing any more peas because the time investment for planting, harvesting, and shelling isn't justified given my schedule. I am just going to buy them from the Farmer's market.

    1. I liked the Mississippi Cream peas, but not the way the Pink Eye Purple Hulls grew. I am planning to replant the Mississippi Cream peas and call it a day. By the way, I did find out that Seed Savers Exchange has some Sadandy peas listed in their membership, if you change your mind about the peas.