Post by macmex on Oct 12, 2015 8:38:16 GMT -6
Barksdale Wax Pole Bean is one of the garden varieties which taught me the most about seed saving. It was the spring of 1984. I was 25 years old and in my second gardening season in Winona Lake, Indiana, where I was attending seminary. Jerreth and I had been married for three years. The year before I had grown out Tomato Rocky, an heirloom inherited from our dear friend Rocky Mastro, through my father. I was excited about old garden varieties and most likely, I spoke of this with Jerreth's grandparents. Albert and Cora Swalley. “Grandma and Grandpa Swalley”, as I knew them, were amazing people and Grandpa was perhaps the closest thing I ever experienced to having a grandfather. They lived in Salem, Illinois; which, though a good jaunt from us, was doable for occasional visits. While visiting, they gave me a start of a yellow podded pole bean which they had grown the previous year. They had obtained the seed from Claude Barksdale, who had lived as a neighbor to them when they still lived and worked the family homestead, outside of Salem. I remember Grandma telling us of her memories of the large patch of these beans which Claude and his family would grow every year. Claude's family got the seed from their own aunt, Lavera Halsclaw when she was 101 years old and had grown it, herself, for 40 or 50 years. I do not know how long the Barksdales had the bean after obtaining seed from Lavera Halsclaw. But I suppose it had to have been at least 20 years, for that is how long it had been since Grandma and Grandpa Swalley had lived in town. My wife and I have never met anyone from the Barksdale family. And we have never heard anything about this bean, directly from them.
That first year I got the seed in quite late. My notes say that I planted this seed on June 27. The first snaps came in at about 65 days. Some of the seedlings died and the row had looked a little thin until after August. But with cooler nights there was a noticeable change. The remaining vines seemed to pick up vigor as other beans were losing steam. They exploded into production. In short order I stopped trying to glean pods from the other varieties, which were sagging. I could pick more than we could use from that 10' row of Barksdale Beans! The pods were 8” long, an inch wide and flattened. My file noted that the pods were “wide and flat with pod forming bulges around seeds. Pods are light green turning yellow when larger.”
Bottom of pole
Top of Pole
Barksdale's pods show very slight signs of having strings. But I have never managed to pull a string from one of its pods. They're too fragile. Still, I consider Barksdale Wax Pole Bean to be a true string bean, in that the pods are truly tender until they start to get dry. This is, by far, the most tender podded bean I have ever tried. Without exception, everywhere I have grown this bean, and managed to harvest, it has waited until cooler fall temperatures to start any significant production. Some years ago an Appalachian gardener suggested that Barksdale Wax Pole might be an Appalachian bean, which he knew as Yellow Podded Fall Bean. Unfortunately I was unable to maintain contact with the fellow.
I've grown this bean in Winona Lake, Indiana (1984, 1985), Colts Neck, NJ (1986), Jackson, NJ (2002, 2003, 2004), Edinburg (1987), Texas, Tlatlauquitepec (1989), Puebla (Mexico), Los Remedios, Tasquillo, Hidalgo (Mexico) (probably 1999-2000) and Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Tlatlauquitepec would have been the most interesting test, as it is in a high cool rain forest environment. However, that was during our first term of missionary service in Mexico, and the extreme high humidity of that region ruined almost all of my seeds, even though I had them stored in glass containers. I planted Barksdale and it was covered in pods. But a spry old Aztex campesino yanked up my entire planting and ran off with the entire thing, vines, roots, pods and all. I had no other seed, from which to replant, and, indeed, those first five years were so strenuous, I couldn't stop to think about it. Tlatlauquitepec had cool nights and days (mostly). I suspect this bean would have produced much more dependably there, than anywhere else I ever grew it.
I lost our seed in 1989, while living in Tlatlauquitepec. In 1999 I requested some seed from SSE member Mike Deyo, of Killbuck, Ohio. I don't have record whether I had supplied his start of this variety, or if he had obtained it from someone else. But I grew it out in Los Remedios, Tasquillo, Hidalgo, Mexico, in 1999. Los Remedios (or Tasquillo, as we called the place) is about 100 miles North of Mexico City in the Bajío, the central plateau, which descends from Mexico City towards the North. All in all, we were without this seed for over ten years! It was wonderful to be able to obtain a new sample of the seed!
Lesson learned: Always share seed with other seed savers. Never hold a variety alone, without others who also maintain it! There are times that life so turbulent that precious varieties can be lost. Share!
In 1996 our family traveled from Hidalgo Mexico to minister, for a year, in the United States. During that time we made Lincroft, NJ our home base. On our way to NJ we stopped in on Grandma and Grandpa Swalley, who were in their 80s.. I asked about their Barksdale Wax Pole Beans. I was shocked to find that they hadn't grown them in years. In 1985 I had given them a sample of Georgia Long Cowpea. They found it so trouble free to grow, that they stopped growing Barksdale! Also, both Grandma and Grandpa Swalley were feeling frail. While we were in their driveway Grandpa handed me a Metamucil bottle of Georgia Long seed. As he handed it to me he commented, “Here George, keep this going. We're getting too old to garden.” They had forgotten that it was I who had given them the seed.
Lesson learned: When swapping seeds, be aware that one variety may supplant another. Your original source might not grow their variety, especially if you have given them something else to try. Therefore, always be sure that new acquisitions are placed into multiple homes, where they will be maintained.
As an interesting note: I requested seed of Barksdale Wax Pole, from SSE member Mike Deyo, of Killbuck, Ohio, in 1999 and grew it in Tasquillo, Hidalgo that year and in 2000. During our years in the Tasquillo area I trialed a number of beans, both from the United States and from Mexico itself. Many beans behave quite differently in their growth habit, depending on latitude. For instance, Tarahumara Pink Green Bean grows only to moderate height in the Tasquillo area. But anywhere North of there, where I have grown it, the variety is amazingly indeterminate, breaking poles and taking over adjacent plantings. Barksdale appears to be day length neutral. Its vines have essentially the same vigor at 20 degrees latitude as they do at 43 degrees.
In all the years that we've grown Barksdale Wax Pole, we have never observed a cross. True, we have been careful to try and plant at least 15' of them at a time, and we have been careful to give at least 15-20' of isolation distance from other varieties. Many times, I've planted my beans in blocks, to reduce exposure to possible crossing. But I have encountered crosses of other beans. I remember in 2009, when I put in a couple of poles of Ma Williams (Goose)Bean. I had crosses of this bean all over the garden, but not a single cross with Barksdale. I suspect that this bean is pretty resistant to crossing. It is also quite uniform. I have never observed a plant which stood out as unique from any other of this variety.
Barksdale Wax Pole Bean Distinctives:
This variety seems to have somewhat lower germination than most others.
It also has a higher percentage of under developed seed, when the pods are dried down.
The best germination I have ever had with it, was during a cool, very wet
This is a picture of part of a tripod of Barksdale Wax Pole Beans which have been left unpicked, for seed, October 2015.