Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Greasy Beans

I seem to be getting a lot of hits on the blog from people searching for info on Greasy Beans. This is my first year growing them too so I've tried to collect as much info on them as possible.

Greasy beans are green beans that lack the normal fuzz that is on the outside of a bean pod. Because they lack that fuzz, when you cook them they take on a shiny appearance that makes them look greasy.


They seem to be indigenous to Appalachia, mainly Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia. They have names like: Cherokee long Greasy (from the Cherokee indians), Lazy Wife Greasy, Robe Mountain Bean and Ora's Speckled bean. Some of the histories are very fascinating.
Greasys are so prized in the mountain south that an Appalachian bride's trousseau would traditionally have included a few seeds from her family's unique strain of beans. Such devoted guardianship has produced an unmatched diversity of greasy beans in the North Carolina and Kentucky highlands, with more than 30 known varieties still cultivated on small patches of mountain land.

This year I am growing two varieties. Pink Tip Greasy (from N.C.) and North Carolina Speckled Long Greasy Cut Short.

These beans do need to be "unzipped" or un-strung. In today's world, demand is high for stringless beans thus contributing to the decline of these old family beans. When we grow these beans and save seed, we are preserving our history too. As most of you know, my passion is really with the heirloom tomatoes, but there are many vegetables that need protected and preserved. If you love gardening, help continue the legacy of our ancestors and grow these very special varieties.
Greasy's are very hard to find. Sustainable Mountain Agrigculture Center is where I finally found my seeds. http://www.heirlooms.org/catalog.html Along with preserving Southern Appalachian heirloom bean varieties, they are experts on the greasy bean.
My friend Maria at Blueribbontomatoes.com also has a family greasy bean she is growing and selling.

It makes me sad to think of the heirloom beans that might become extinct including many varieties of family Greasy beans. The old timers are passing away and if a family member doesn't continue growing their bean, it becomes lost along with all of it's history. Saving heirloom and family vegetables is right up there with me as saving an animal from extinction. Once something is lost, it's lost forever.

14 comments:

jack-of-all-thumbs said...

After growing them this year, I am a huge fan of greasy beans. The flavor is spectacular! The plants are a handful though, very vigorous growers with abrasive foliage and tendrils that can leave marks for days just from rubbing past them.

Well worth it!

Tomatoaddict said...

I'm glad to get feedback from someone that actually grew them. I can't wait to try them too. Do you know what the name of your variety was?

Anonymous said...

HI-I am from Michigan and In search of the "short and greasy" bean you are referring to. My grandmother, who is originally from Ashville NC is in the hospital and has been for a little while now, and is, as she says "withering away" due to Hopital food LOL. She doen't have much time left and her doctor told her she could have a meal brought from home and she has requested these "short and greasy beans" I feel at a loss because I had no idea until now what they were and I still do not know how to get them here. Could you give me any search tips as to who I could contact? I would be willing to pay $$$$ a reasonable sum for a couple pounds of these beans and a good old fashioned way to prepare them.
please help.

Bean Hunter-

Tomatoaddict said...

First try going to a site called local harvest. If you type in your zip code, it will tell you what growers have in your area.
I think your best bet is going to be a farmers market. I know the greasy beans are a big seller in NC at them. Try googling farmers markets in your area.
I hope you find them for your gram! Good luck!

Tomatoaddict said...

Here's a link to the farmers markets in your area. cut and paste it into your browser.

http://www.exploreasheville.com/what-to-do/seasonal-fun/springtime-in-asheville/farmers-market-opening-dates/index.aspx

Anonymous said...

You have tested it and writing form your personal experience or you find some information online?

Anonymous said...

This is my first visit here, but I will be back soon, because I really like the way you are writing, it is so simple and honest

Anonymous said...

I got my Cherokee long greasy seeds from the Cherokee nation in Tahlequah, OK. My husband is part Cherokee and qualified for these seeds. We also got some Georgia candy roaster squash from the Cherokee nation. I'm anxious to grow them. The Cherokee nation has an heirloom seed project and distributes many varieties to their citizens. Pretty neat program!

Barbara said...

There is a type of greasy bean that a combination of a greasy and a "cut short" bean, so it's a greasy cutshort bean your looking for. Cut sort means the beans inside the pod are crammed in tightly to the next bean, ending in a blunt bean. Thus, the cut short moniker.
You can get a selection from Sustainable Mtn Agriculture online.

Anonymous said...

greasy beans can be found at the farmers market in Asheville, N.C. during season. Last year, they were selling for $1.59 to $2.00 per pound or $45 up per bushel. These beans are highly prized for their flavor. Seeds are usually passed down through families.

Quazarj65 said...

I'm very happy to have run across this post. I found it while searching about the Kumato which we have just planted. I regularly read many gardening blogs but this is the first time I've seen the greasy bean mentioned. There are only two types of beans that both sides of my family have grown for so many generations that they don't even know when it began, they are Greasy and Hasting. My husband and I had no idea that they were rare strains until my grandpa decided to have all his sons and us grow them to continue the line. I feel so proud to be part of such a rare heritage tradition.

email: quazarj65@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Hi! I am a gardener and my husband and I were vacationing in Bryson City, NC last year when I was told about "greasy beans" by a local. I grew up on a farm in middle GA but had never heard of these beans. I was directed to a farm in that area but when we went by the farm they were out of the fresh picked beans and said it would be days before they would pick again. We were leaving the next day so I would not be able to get these beans and was quite disappointed. The young man running the vege stand gave me a large handful of dried ones and told me that I could plant these in my garden. Could someone give me exact instructions for planting these beans? I was told not to plant them near other beans but how far away is far enough? How far apart do I plant the seeds? From my reading, I think I need to trellis? Any help would be great.

Jon C. said...

Jon C. says: My maturnal grandparents also were from Asheville, N.C. where I learned as a very young boy to love the Greasy cut short beans they grew. Since I now have the room, I have grown & enjoyed them here in Staunton,Va where more folks never heard of this bean! I started mine from family seeds from my cousin Anne Belleflower's garden & now use my own past season's seeds for my new crop each year! This bean, by far, is the best tasting bean I have ever had & the only green bean we will eat!

Anonymous said...

I grew up near Asheville and these were the only green beans that I ever ate until I moved away for college. I thought and canned green beans were terrible so I bought some beans from the grocery store and they were horrible too. It is well worth the time and effort to grow greasy cut shorts, they are the best beans in the world :)