Growing a Mixed-Up Sack of Beans

27 Jun

Every now and then I get a little crazy, especially when it comes to beans. Each year I like to plant “something different.” One year it was peanuts, then sorghum cane. Another year I planted pintos. But now I have gone gaga over a bag of beans available only at the local Farm supply store. Now I have a little mystery on my hands that I need your help with.

Most of you know that I avoid “Big Box” Farm Supply stores like the plague. I like my local folk; independent farm supply stores who have provided seeds and fertilizer, baby chicks, and animal wormer to my family for generations. I am fiercely devoted to the independent Farm Supply Stores. Here’s why.

Inside stores such as these you’ll find seeds named after the farmer who brought them in. You’ll overhear someone whispering about Bill Mathis beans and you’ll almost push someone out of the way to get your hands on a sack of them. But my mom was in a hurry, so I didn’t actually push, but I did chat with my friend Yvette who went back to the local farm supply store and bought me a sack of beans. I didn’t know what the beans were, didn’t really care. All I knew was if some farmer from the western North Carolina mountains was selling the seeds he’d been growing for years, then I needed to get my hands on a handful…pronto.


Yvette and I met – literally- on the side of the road where she presented me with a sack of seeds. And while some may think that I need therapy for this obsession (I do), I now have a bit of a mystery on my hands. Take a look at this.

Mr. Bill Mathis did not sort his beans!


Bringing my bag home, I quickly arranged my loot according to appearance. Unfortunately, the bag only contained one seed of some of the larger beans. One bean! What if that particular seed was the last of its kind in the whole wide world! (Perish the thought). So, I determined that I best get to the garden and plant a test area, a place where I could grow these beans just for the purpose of having more seed next year. The only problem is that haven’t a clue what these are!mysterybean00

That is where you come in. Can you help identify any of these seeds? If you can, please let me know. Note: If you click the photo image, it opens a much larger image.

Numbering a piece of paper, I laid each seed out beside a number and took a picture. Does this help any of you seasoned bean growers identify what in the world I’ve planted?

mysterybeans (5)

Next, I went to the garden and planted each of these seeds beside a flag with the coinciding number. As the growing season progresses, I will share images with the hopes that you can help me identify what in the world I’m growing.

If you can identify any of these beans, and are on Facebook, please visit my page here and leave me a message. Or, contact me through my website. Just say bean number one is (insert name); bean number two is (insert name). Truly, I need your help.

Until then, I’ll keep growing, and searching for unusual seeds.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. In September of 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.




One response to “Growing a Mixed-Up Sack of Beans

  1. latebloomershow

    June 27, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    This is awesome for you to take this on! You might lighten the chart photo by 20% (too dark to really be sure) and send to Arlene @ Home Farm Herbery. She’s been in the seed business for 25 years and might be able to help. Arlene . Also, #6 might be an heirloom called Cremes, like a black-eyed pea without the eye. I’m growing some now. The seeds were from Sharon’s Natural Gardens which I found through Good luck!


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