Seed To Table: Kentucky Wonder

By Amy Grant | October 29, 2021
Image by Dubasov Evgenii
by Amy Grant
October 29, 2021

We’ve all heard the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, right? In the story, Jack trades the family cow for five magic beans which magically grow up into a kingdom in the sky. While green beans might not grow quite that rapidly, they are rather amazing in how swiftly they achieve height and fruiting. And in my case, coverage of an ugly chain link fence. 

Growing Green Beans

I’ve been growing green beans for years, in part because they are easy to grow, and in part because they provide great privacy. Green bean growing doesn’t require much care. Really it’s as simple as planting the bean seeds, providing some water and sun and voila, you have beans; maybe more than you want.  

I start my beans outside since beans have shallow root systems that don’t like to be transplanted. Plus, bean seeds grow so quickly there really is no need to start them early indoors. 

I always plant pole beans since I want them to cover the fence. Usually they are planted solo, but this year I planted them using the ancient Native American companion planting technique, “Three Sisters.” The “Three Sisters” is a method of planting corn, beans, and squash together for mutual benefit. 

The trio of corn, beans, and squash deters weeds and pests, enriches the soil, provides support, and helps the soil retain moisture. I planted the bean seeds first and then a few weeks later I planted corn and squash seedlings. 

Fast forward to today, I just recently harvested the corn and have been harvesting squash and beans for a couple of weeks. The beans will continue to produce for about another couple of weeks, provided I keep picking. 

Kentucky Wonder Beans

The pole bean I am growing is called “Kentucky Wonder,” a popular heirloom that can be grown in many areas. The beauty of growing an heirloom is you need never buy seeds again. As fall wanes, the bean pods and vines begin to dry out. It is time to harvest when the bean pods are dry and papery and the beans can be heard rattling around inside. 

Pull the pods from the vine and lay them out on newspaper in a well ventilated area. Allow the pods to dry for at least a couple of weeks. When the beans are completely dry, shell them from the pods and store the bean seeds in a labeled, sealed container. 

That’s it. I now have bean seeds for next year. I can hardly wait to plant them and watch in fascination as they practically double in size each day. My name may not be Jack, but my ability to grow green beans is almost as magical. 

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