Should I branch out beyond Kentucky Wonder?

alisande(Zone 4b)April 11, 2010

I'm hoping to find opinions from those who love Kentucky Wonder beans but also love a different variety. KWs have always been my family's favorite. I'll be growing them again this year, but wonder if we've been missing something by not trying other kinds of pole beans as well. Like one of the purple-podded varieties, for instance. Or will I just wish I'd stuck with the Kentucky Wonders?

Your recommendations........?


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anney(Georgia 8)


I love pole beans, too, and am still learning a lot about them. As for "branching out" so to speak, I'd recommend Fortex snaps, a pole bean that is really wonderful. You can find them at Vermont Bean Seed Company and Johnny's Seeds. These are only two but there are other vendors that others here can recommend if you want some unique beans.

You don't say HOW far you want to branch out, but if you read the posts here (just scroll down a couple of pages), you'll see there are many kinds of pole beans that people swear by.

I'm growing only Fortex green beans, Italian green beans, and limas, along with cowpeas this year, an old Southern favorite. My repertoire is not terribly exciting to those whose tastes and experience are more extensive, but these are the beans we really love, and my entire bean crop failed last year, what with the weather and the deer. I'll probably expand my list next year and include rattlesnake beans, which lots of people say is great!

One piece of advice. The pole bean mavens on this forum say that the traditional spacing for beans recommended by vendors is WAY too crowded to get great production. You'll probably be surprised at the recommended spacing these experienced folks suggest.

Anyway, enjoy your exploration into new pole bean territory!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 3:37PM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

Fortex is always good advice. To me KW taste as good as Fortex, however, KW are heat and pest resistant. Since z 4b is a different world than 9b, the Fortex is well worth trying. You get about three times more food per pod they are so long, and very tasty.

You do not say how you use beans. What types of dishes do you make with them? I am also a KW lover, but found other types tasted best to us pickled. We also preferred the runner beans grilled, and the KW and Fortex competed for #1 steamed. Also, there are different varieties of gold or yellow snaps, I love them too. The romano types like Garafal Oro have different texture and flavors than the ones with round cross sections (French fillet).

Growing different types has expanded our culinary horizons. We never would have thought to grill a snap bean before growing runner beans. Now I am growing both the red scarlets and the sweet white ones.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 5:10PM
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I have used KW bush for 40 years and am having problems getting them. Burpee has them back ordered.

Does Fortex grow a bush bean?

I prepare my beans cold after cooking with oil,vinegar and onions.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 4:57PM
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ppod(6 SE NY)

Some of my favorites are Blauhilde and Neckargold. See photos in link. Gourmet has many pole beans I'd like to grow, but their seeds are expensive, as is their shipping.....

Sand Hill Preservation has both Blauhilde and Neckargold and many others. Jeminez is an interesting bean with thick pods, and Red Peanut, listed under bush beans, is much better grown on trellis. Red Peanut is a fast maturing bean, so gives hefty harvest. However, grown as a bush bean, Red Peanut performed poorly for me with its long shoots looking for something to climb on to and not finding it, sprawled on the ground allowing slugs to get at the beans. I wished Sand Hill would list Red Peanut under pole beans.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gourmet Seed

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 12:21AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

I also love "Kentucky Wonder", I will be growing the white-seeded version ("Pole 191") this year. It is in a rotation with "Fortex" and "Emerite", so I always grow one of those as my main crop snap. I'll second the recommendation for a Romano-type snap; they are heavy yielders, and some have a sweet wonderful flavor.

I'll also be growing "Jeminez" this year, so maybe I'll find out why it is spoken of so highly. While I only grew a few plants for seed production last year (only nibbled on one pod) it didn't impress me with its yield.

Now if you really want to branch out, grow a pole bean for shellies. Several of us here would be happy to get you started. I'd highly recommend "Goose" or "Ma Williams", which is high yielding, has large beans in the shelly stage, and ripens fast enough to succeed in short seasons.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 12:45AM
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I have not grown beans until this year, except yardlong and hyacinths.
I am growing Kentucky Wonder, Blue Lake, Cherokee yellow Wax, cow peas, hyacinth and yardLong.
My first set of beans are growing vines already, and the second set are germinating
and may also plant more later. I plant hyacinths mostly for the purpose of
flowering vine, though it bean are tasty when fresh.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 12:55AM
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My DH is from Kansas, and Blue Lake is one of his favorites. It must can well, because it is a favorite of the Hanover canning company. They sell large white-lined cans of it.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 4:17AM
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ppod(6 SE NY)

Jeminez is so different from other beans with its extra-long, wide, flat, thick-walled pods. I didn't find it either high or low yielding but found it worth growing.

In my experience, sun and soil fertility to a great extent determines taste, that is, a bean with potentially great taste grown in terrific conditions will achieve its maximum.

But many of us do not have ideal conditions, and our beans therefore do not produce to their full potential in yield or taste. And so be it....

In my experience: Kentucky Wonder is a late bloomer and yields little if not given enough sun to suit it's needs. In comparison to some others, KW has more insect(?) and disease resistance.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 10:01AM
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alisande(Zone 4b)

Thanks, guys! Zeedman, I assume "shellies" refers to the beans inside the pods--that is, letting them grow to the point where you can shell them? Sorry about this, but I don't do well with that many carbs. I know beans are healthy, and I love them. We used to grow our own kidney beans and a couple of other varieties. My family was vegetarian years ago when we had a commercial tofu business. My husband and kids did wonderfully on things like beans and rice, but I'm insulin-resistant and . . . um . . . grew to unpleasant proportions. :-)

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 10:34AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

"My family was vegetarian years ago when we had a commercial tofu business."

OK, as a collector of soybeans, you've got my complete attention! So far, I've only used some of them for edamame (and a little soy meal); but only about 25% of my varieties are edamame, with field soybeans from around the world making up the remainder. I'll be contacting you off-line... or maybe you could start a thread on soybean processing?

Sorry to hear that you had to give up shell beans; counting limas & cowpeas, I eat more of those than snaps.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 1:10AM
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