IT CAUGHT MY EYE in the catalogs, since I garden in rattlesnake country. (Yes, as you would know if you had read my last book: Dear Crotalus horridus is my neighbor here, and moved in long before I did. He’s recently gone from endangered to merely threatened in New York State, meaning he apparently plans to stick around.) So during my winter seed-shopping (when the snakes are hibernating) I came upon an heirloom called ‘Rattlesnake’ pole bean, and I thought: I must grow those.
Now, I can tell you from first-hand experience that the purple markings on the rounded, 6- or 7-inch green pods look nothing like those on an Eastern timber rattler. But when grown until the pods mature and dry (here’s how to grow and dry shell beans), they’d be more in the snake’s tan and brown color range, if not the right pattern, exactly. The bean seeds are somewhat pinto-like, but much smaller, and speckled the way the green pods are before they turn solid green when cooked.
Besides being beautiful, the fresh snap beans are somewhat sweet-tasting and easy to grow, and especially cooperative in hot weather (making them a favorite in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic, says Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, which lists them as 73 days to producing size). Up north in Maine, Fedco’s catalog says 70 days–and that down south they’re sometimes called Preacher Beans, which Seed Savers confirms (offering a range of harvest time from 60-90 days); High Mowing Seeds says they’ll start sizing up at about 65 days.
Maybe I’ll try the dried beans in a pot of minestrone soup, or my homemade vegetarian baked beans if I get enough of a harvest this fall–lots of possibilities to consider. One never knows what to expect next from a rattlesnake, right?