Skip to main content

Heritage Beans

Heritage beans climbing twine.

Beans have been grown in home gardens for years. In fact, beans have a richer genetic diversity in Appalachia than anywhere else in the world.

Heritage beans are versatile beans that can be eaten fresh, shelled fresh or even shelled as a dry bean. Compared to a commercial snap bean, heritage beans have more fiber and protein per serving.

Beans are a tender crop, so they are usually planted after the last frost date or grown in a high tunnel.

Most heritage beans are string beans. String beans must be strung and tipped before cooking, canning or freezing. They should be picked while they are young and tender, prior to seeds bulging in the hulls.

Pole beans, historically known as cornfield or climbing beans, are a wide group of beans with a slightly larger pod and a more prominent string. For fresh beans, Coal Camp and Fat Man are excellent varieties. For dry, shelled beans, try the October Tender Hull, Turkey Craw, Coal Camp and Fat Man varieties.

The half-runner is the standard fresh, freezing and canning bean. Three recommended varieties are Volunteer, Josephine Jackson, Brown Seed and Non-Tough half-runners.

Wax beans are usually yellow or light colored, with a hull somewhat thicker than other cornfield beans and a waxy feel.

Drying beans is the oldest way of preserving them. Leather britches are made from full green beans that have been strung, broken into pieces and dried.

Varieties that are separated by 20 to 25 feet can be saved for seed the following year. The seeds must be thoroughly dried and placed in a cool, low-humidity storage space.

By Brandy Brabham, WVU Extension Agent – Roane County