angels on holy beans

The Joy of Growing Heirloom Beans

Gardening brings so much enjoyment. It is amazing to drop a little seed in the soil and watch it turn into something truly spectacular! But the more that I garden, the more I think that I am in love with the seeds more than the plants or the fruit they give. Since I heard my friend Ben Cohen talk about heirloom seeds and their stories, I have been experimenting more every year with rare seeds, especially beans. Check out Ben’s book about seeds and their stories. Anytime Ben asks if I want to grow some seeds out for his program, I always choose beans, not just because they are easy but because they are just so unique and beautiful.

My garden isn’t very large and my soil not very good, but usually I can grow beans pretty well. My preference is pole beans, but I will try just about any kind. Only 4 or 5 seeds are needed to yield plenty of seeds to share, along with my obligation to give back to Ben. I actually don’t get much produce for us from our garden because I am so focused on growing more seed. I love to let the bean pods dry out on the vine and open them up to reveal the seed inside. It’s like opening a gift!

10 bean varieties
The 10 varieties that I grew this year for seed.

This year, I grew 10 different varieties of beans for seed. They were given to me by Ben, and by Joseph Simcox (the Botanical Explorer) for Gardens Across America. I planted only 3 seeds each as my space is limited (boo!) and had pretty good results, with just one type not coming up at all, and another not maturing in time. I wanted to share with you a couple of the beans that I grew.

Holy Beans

This is the second time that I have grown these beans. They are a very easy to grow and very tasty snap, pole bean. Again I’m always afraid to eat too many because I want to get as much seed as possible at the end of the year. The amazing part about these beans is the angel that can be found on every bean. Of all the pods that I have broken open, there has never been a bean that hasn’t had a perfect little angel on it.

Beautiful little angels on every seed.

Even better than the angel on the bean, is the legend that goes with this seed. Ben gave me these seeds 2 years ago and told me the story that was given to him. During WWI Belgium, invading troops were closing in on a little village. The people of the village buried their valuables next to the church so the enemy would not get them. They planted a garden on top so that it would look like the ground was only turned over for planting. When they were able to return to the village several months later, the church and many of the buildings had been burnt to the ground. The “garden” had protected their valuables and their beans had gone to seed. As they opened the bean pods, they discovered the perfect angels on every seed.

As I share these seeds with people, I share this story that was told to me. There is no way that I will never not own any of these seeds in my collection, they are just too beautiful to give up.

La Pap Beans

These seeds are one of about a dozen varieties given to me by Joe Simcox when he came to speak at our library. I didn’t really know much about them, and finally got around to planting them this year. La Pap is translated as “The Pope”, although I’m unsure what language is actually being translated. As you look at the seeds, they are said to resemble the headdress of the Pope. The seeds that were given to me were from Austrian stock. I thought it was fitting that I grew some “pope” beans along side some “angel” beans!

“The Pope” beans – called such because of the resemblance to the Pope’s headdress.

Do have some bean seeds that you would like to swap with me?  I have a lot of varieties that are not even listed on this page. Some of them I do not know much about, but I’m wanting to grow them just the same. I love to know the history of the seeds and share them with others also. Drop me a line if you want to swap. Happy growing!

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