- Author: Dustin Blakey
I love green beans, but even better are wax beans. For some reason as a kid I thought the yellow color of wax beans was something special. Since then I've preferred them if given a choice, but I'm sure it's all in my head. Kids make food choices based on some illogical characteristics. This one stuck with me.
I've grown three different varieties of wax beans since I've lived in Owens Valley. I always grow bush-type beans since I'm too lazy to set up a trellis. This is the first year I've had enough to make more than a meal.
My first two years I attempted to grow ‘Top Notch' wax beans. They are easy to find and cheap. I like cheap.
I brought my 'Top Notch' seeds from Arkansas, but I didn't have much luck with them in Bishop. My plants had serious problems with fruit set in the dry heat. The plants grew and flowered prolifically, but few pods formed in either year. The other green beans (‘Blue Lake Bush' and ‘Royal Burgundy') I planted those years did fine, so I think it's a case of a poor choice in our area. Or at least that garden.
Since then I moved to another house and didn't put in a garden, but like everyone else, the coronavirus inspired me to plant a garden.
My current garden spot is even hotter than the last as it's nestled in between my house and a fence, in full sun all day. I figured I need to try a different kind of bean. By the time I decided to put in my garden, there wasn't much left for sale. I ended up growing ‘Borsalino', an Italian variety I frankly paid too much for in desperation for seeds.
‘Borsalino' was highly productive. Each plant yielded about ½ lb of beans. They were fair tasting and tender, but the pods were not very long. Most were 3-4" long. Few looked worthy of entering into the fair, but I can't complain about the yield. They also yielded almost their entire crop in one picking.
About a week after I planted those wax beans, I was given some French rocbrun seeds to plant. The mature seeds look like brown pebbles. Maybe that's what the name means. (This cultivar may actually be ‘Buerre de Rocquencourt' but rocbrun is easier for an Anglophone to say, if that's actually the case.)
My rocbruns were not as productive as ‘Borsalino', but the pods were much larger and generally more tender. I ate a few raw out of the garden. I was glad the pods were larger as that speeds up harvest; however it did take two passes about 5 days apart to get them all. I kept the first ones in the refrigerator until I had the rest harvested.
While they were excellent to eat, I wasn't so happy about cleaning them prior to canning. The pods were very sticky, and little bits of dirt and spent blossoms adhered a bit too well. I had to wash the beans twice to clean them of debris. They were good enough to eat that I plan to let some of the seeds mature and save them for next year.
The moral of the story is that in many cases, the reason something doesn't work could be as simple as the variety not being adapted to one's location. Wax beans definitely seem to grow here, as I would expect they would.
New gardeners: keep in mind that if you don't succeed with something this year, maybe the solution is to try another variety next year.