Continued from <-More Heirlooms, Introduction
Originally a regional favorite from New Mexico, this triple-purpose bean is widely adapted and will even mature in many mild-summer areas. Picked early, the five-inch pods make excellent snap beans. Left a little longer, they develop into tasty shelly beans. Allowed to get fully mature, they turn black and make first-rate dry beans--plump, reportedly fast-cooking, and tasty. They are even pretty.
The 'Lazy Wife' bean, which dates from at least 1882, got its name because it was prolific and set beans in clusters that were easy to pick. In its heyday, this bean was a vegetable superstar. In 1907, the 'Lazy Wife' was the third most popular bean in the US. That same year, the USDA rated only one other bean better tasting, and that one did not survive. Going beyond ordinary catalog hype, Burpee's 1888 catalog heaped praise on them, "...they are broad, thick, very fleshy and entirely stringless! Many persons have testified that they never ate a bean quite so good in distinct rich flavor." Other seed companies agreed.
A late-season pole variety that is often slow to start climbing, the 'Lazy Wife' is a rank grower. It produces an abundance of large, medium-green leaves. The flowers, which are white, are followed by medium-green pods that measure five and one-half to six inches long. They contain five to seven beans, which are white with light gray veins. Picked young, the beans are brittle, fine-textured, and have a fine flavor. 'Lazy Wife' also produces first-rate shelly beans, if the pods are left to ripen a little longer. Today, this bean is rare.
Probably from the Pacific Northwest or at least once popular there, 'Oregon Giants' produce mammoth snap beans that are tender even when they are twice the size of ordinary beans. What is less well known about them is that 'Oregon Giants' will germinate in cold soil. Some claim they will even germinate in mud. Picked young, they are free from strings, but even older beans, properly stringed, are tender and tasty. The pods have red speckles, and turn uniformly green when cooked. I grew up eating these each summer, and they are one of my favorites.
A storage beet reminiscent of nineteenth century winter beets, this old-timer departs from the rule that beets are best when picked young. 'Long Season' stays as sweet, tender, and fine-grained as baby beets even when the roots get big and clunky.
A hold-over from the days before transportation made fresh vegetables available year-round, 'Purple Sprouting Broccoli' dates from the mid to late 1800s and perhaps earlier. Today, few gardeners know it because it takes nine months to mature. Seeds sown in the spring sprout and grow into big plants, but do not produce usable shoots until early the following year. Then, the plants set dozens of purple sprigs that look like the side-shoots on short-season broccoli. They are purple, but turn green when cooked. Hardy to 10°F.
Another 19th century variety, 'White Sprouting Broccoli' performs much like 'Purple Sprouting Broccoli,' but with two differences. It is not as hardy, and the spring shoots are white. They look a little like tiny cauliflowers.More Heirlooms, Part 3 ->