I’m very happy to be introducing this project with today’s blog post because it is a work in progress that has been in our hands for the past few years. We’ve been growing a green bean mix for our market stand for the last four years, and in 2015 we began working on growing a seed crop that we can use on our own farm. One of our main motivations for seed growing has been to supply our market garden’s seed needs for a few select crops, and green beans are one we feel we’ve best mastered and most appreciated.
My dream for a rainbow green bean mix began when I discovered Dan Jason’s Salt Spring Seeds original variety, Tanya’s Pink Pod. The stunning fluorescent pink colour was like nothing I’d seen in a seed catalogue before, and I was inspired by his account of its accidental existence in his bean patch. I purchased a couple packages of his seed and increased our stock of it over a few seasons until I had enough to incorporate it into our market crop. The resulting mix of beans ranging in colour from yellow, green, pink and dark purple are unique at our market stand and attractive to our customers. I love telling people about the story of the pink bean in particular, and promoting local seed production in the process.
If it hadn’t been for Dan’s story about finding and saving seed from a unique individual on his farm, Ben and I may not have taken notice of our own special outcrossed bean plant which appeared in our field during the summer of 2017. Among three 70ft rows of mixed green bean plants, we found a distinct bean that we didn’t recognize. It had a beautiful glowing blue/purple cast over a green base, much like Tanya’s Pink Pod blushes pink over a green undertone. This discovery gave us hope and energy during the whirlwind of summer harvesting and work, and we happily made space for the “blue bean” in our seed saving plans.
This year we’re growing out the children of the crossed plant, which I suppose we can call the F2 generation. I’m excited because now I have more information about who the “blue bean’s” parents are. Half of the plants are typical green beans, and the other half have varying shades of purple, from dark to light. I was delighted to see that the flowers are varying in colour between plants as well. Some are pure white, others are white with pink tips, some yet are lavender and others are a darker purple. Crosses are a rare sight when you grow crops from large and medium sized seed companies because they are so diligent about maintaining pure varieties. I plan to grow out the results of this cross for several years and see if I can select a stable, blue-purple colour. I recognize that may not be possible completely because the colour I like may be due to heterogeneity. However, the variation I’m seeing now is beautiful, and the slow-moving, hands-on genetics lesson is a fascination.