the heirloom pole bean called 'aunt ada's italian'

‘DON’T BE WORRIED WHEN THE SEEDS show in the pods,” the folks at Turtle Tree Seed had told me about ‘Aunt Ada’s Italian’ pole bean; “that’s when this bean tastes best,” they said. But I was worried, anyhow, when I saw dozens of fattening pods on my vines today at picking time, so I took a handful inside, and steamed them quickly to see if I should just pull the entire plant. I was certain they’d be starchy and nasty, like a too-far-gone legume can quickly become. Quite to the contrary: Aunt Ada is a keeper, and a productive one at that—a pole bean I’ll grow again, for certain, great cooked as a green bean or dried for use in soup.

The listing for ‘Aunt Ada’s Italian’ in the catalog from Turtle Tree, a biodynamic seed company and just across “town” here from me, said that the variety came from Italy to Colorado around the turn of the 20th century, with a family called Botanelli. It’s likened to a “small, buttery snap lima” in flavor when steamed. I quickly steamed a bowlful for supper, and drizzled the beans with some olive oil and a dash of salt. Delicious (though admittedly a whole different texture than what you expect from a snap bean, whose seeds are rarely part of each mouthful)!

My vines (supported on a bamboo tripod) are a couple of feet taller than the 6 feet predicted, and they started to bear in about 60 days. Pick them when they are not too big (maybe 3 inches long on average) and the seeds inside are starting to show. From the number of flowers on the plant yesterday despite the good haul of pods, I’d say there are plenty more to come.

Want to use them for soup or another dry-bean recipe? Let the pods go all the way to withered and tan on the vine, and follow the dry-bean how-to here.

This is the second new-to-me heirloom bean I’ve been enjoying this summer, ‘Rattlesnake’ being the other. Any oldtime discoveries in your garden?

  1. kristi says:

    My bamboo tripod couldn’t support the weight of our heirloom pole beans. Every few days I add another improvised support. Love the idea of the Rattlesnake bean, may have to try them next year.

  2. Barbara says:

    My husband, Mike and I were having the problem with the bamboo, a.k.a. a cane poles in Kentucky, therefore we created a new system to hold our bean vines. We used what is known as “cattle panels” and “T” posts. The panels are made of galvanized wire that are 16′ long, and 54″ tall. We drove three posts in the ground to secure the wire, and used plastic zip ties to hold the wire on the post.
    Last year, the beans grew across the rows and intertwined, and we had no weeds in the row, or under the beans. They are also very strong during wind storms, and damaging rains.

    1. margaret says:

      Thanks. Barbara, for the suggestion — I have to look up cattle panels and T posts and see if I can visualize. :) I really need a stronger bean set-up because I seem to grow more than I used to, now that I live here fulltime, and they overpower my 10-foot-bamboo teepees!

  3. Susan says:

    I would love to have too many beans. Seems the deer like them as much as we do. I think they stand up on hind quarters to reach the top.

  4. Carla D'Anna says:

    I grow a family heirloom pole bean and they really are not ready until the bean is plump in the pod. That is one of the problems with the newer hybrid beans, the pod is the only part fit to eat.

  5. Beverly says:

    My pole bean trellis is comprised of two 8-foot rebar poles driven into the ground at least a foot deep, then draped/woven with a 4 foot wide plastic expandable trellis, wired on in two places at the top. I have reused it at least 7 years now. It stands up to windstorms very well. It’s easy to get the spent vines off after frost. I can pick beans from both sides. My hand fits through the openings in the trellis.

    When I lay the trellis sideways, it can be used for pea vines or gourd vines or cucumbers and 4-foot rebar poles. I have four of these plastic expandable trellises and I love them dearly. I can’t remember where I bought them, do you believe it ?!?!?!?!

    The only down side I have discovered so far is that ants will nest inside the hollow plastic bars, getting in at the bottom where it comes in contact with the soil. I find this out when I dismantle one of them. It is not an issue during the growth period.

    My heirloom pole bean of choice is the flat Romano type called “Garden of Eden”, green and robust, a long bearer here in eastern PA, zone 6. It’s an Italian heirloom from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Very reliable. Second choice… Trionfo Violetta, a purple pole bean – really easy to see when picking on a seven foot high trellis. Both are delicious and both freeze well.

    Looking at the miserable green bean offerings in the supermarket keeps me dedicated to growing my own.

  6. kendall says:

    first year having a garden. got a plot in a community garden and one of the plots was planted already and over the row of beans they had an old wooden saw horse. thought it was silly but after reading about beans its a really good idea. so if you’re looking for a good support for your beans pick your self up an old wooden saw horse at a thrift shop or garage sale. note you will have to put a couple of boards on the horse legs close to the ground to allow the beans to grab ahold.

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