A single Blue Lake pole bean has grown into a tangled, productive mass.
  • Goldy | The Stranger
  • A single Blue Lake pole bean has grown into a tangled, productive mass.

Rummaging through my collection of seed packets early this summer, I found a handful of Blue Lake pole beans dated to the 2006 season. So I planted these relics in a row between my zucchinis and cucumbers, and figured what happened would happen. If the seeds came up I'd build them a trellis. If they didn't, so be it.

Only one bean sprouted, so I pretty much ignored the row as a cost-free failure.

This mornings pickings of green beans. Ill harvest another fistful for dinner.
  • Goldy | The Stranger
  • This morning's pickings of green beans. I'll harvest another fistful for dinner.

Four months later this one magic bean has grown into a tangled mass that has long since swallowed the cucumber cages, and has for weeks been producing daily, fistfuls of sweet, crunchy snap beans in return.

For those who have never tasted a fresh picked green bean—I mean a really fresh picked green bean—the experience is totally unlike the bland, limp, supermarket facsimile. Juicy and crunchy and surprisingly sweet, we eat 90 percent of our harvest raw. And as this one magic bean has demonstrated, my god can pole beans be productive. Bush beans have been developed for commercial harvest, ripening all of their fruit at once. Pole beans produce weeks of harvest, continuously flowering until the weather kills them back.

I've always had good luck with pole beans, but never anything quite as robust as this one magic beanstalk, so I'll certainly be saving seeds. Next year's rotation puts the beans along a south-facing fence—prime garden real estate. So if the saved seeds turn out half as productive as their parent, this time next year I'll be wondering why I planted all those goddamn beans!