After having rain in due season from spring through July, the rain dried up and we experienced drought for two months. Not good conditions for beans like Henderson Butter Beans that were succession planted in my garden from June through mid July. (They’re a bush baby lima bean that I think are THE best!)
I had already harvested first and second pickings on a few of the plantings when it stopped raining. Plants were heavy with pods that had not yet filled out. About three weeks into drought full pods were few and far between.
With the week of rains that we’ve recently had — I’m still hoping for a good fall harvest although I lost a lot of pods that fell from the plants because of the dry conditions.
A Possible Back-up?
I was reading an article online the other day by a garden writer who has grown Worchester Indian Red Pole beans for two season.. She was particularly taken by the beauty of trellising the beans and then enjoying the shade in the paths under the trellis in the summer. She mentioned nothing about how the beans tasted. (To help your thought process it’s always good to note what is “not” said as well as what IS said.)
Then she mentioned that the description in the SESE (Southern Exposure Seed Exchange) catalog said that this pole lima is the hardiest lima and it’s heat and drought resistant. That appealed to me instantly and I made a note of the variety thinking I might like to grow that one next year.
I did a bit of research and discovered that Native Americans grew these beans. (In particular the Naticole Group living on the eastern shore of Maryland near Worcester.) This concept really appealed to me, even though the beans were not of Native American Origin. They were probably introduced to the Indians by the Spanish who — along with the Portuguese were largely responsible for disseminating limas to other parts of the world.
At this point these Red Pole beans were looking like a definite for next year’s garden.
The criteria that determines if this bean is worth the time and space in my garden: Does it taste good?
In a Mother Earth News article I read that the bean when shelled and cooked as a mature bean (called a shelly bean) is “uninteresting and tough”.
How disappointing. (Especially when the Henderson Lima is out of this world delicious!) BUT, I’d rather be disappointed now than to spend the time and garden space to grow a new variety and then not like it.
The American Indians valued it for the flour they made from it. Also it is said to be both handsome and excellent cooked with red corn. Neither of those ways of using the bean have any interest to me. It’s the taste that I want from a lima bean.
Why I didn’t continue the search for a back-up lima:
My next thought was to continue researching and find another lima that might be more drought resistant and grow it in addition to my favorite Henderson Limas.
Then I read that although limas are self-polllinating, they contain rich nectar that is very attractive to bees. AND they cross pollinate readily. And they’re likely do just that because of their bee-attracting nectar.
I sure saved myself a lot of disappoint next growing season by taking a few minutes to search further. I think I’ll stick to the Henderson Limas and take my chances with the weather.
Hope this story will save you a lot of time and disappoint as well. It just shows that although the seed catalogs description may be accurate —and very enticing — it may not tell the whole story. After all — presenting each variety in its best light is what sells the variety.
Organic gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.
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