The Great Dry Bean Experiment - and giveaway!

You may remember that, after my success with dry beans last year, I decided to try a bunch of different varieties this year. I ended up with 15 different varieties, which is truly a drop in the bucket when it comes to dry beans. And of course, being the geek I am, I did things like monitor germination rates and harvest totals.

Blue Jay - the most incredible purple-blue colour.

What, doesn't everyone?

Calypso. Or Orca. I like Orca.

Well, most of the results are in. There are a few varieties that aren't ready to harvest yet, which is actually a bad thing - if, in this year of insane heat, they aren't ready in 3 months, what hope will they have in a cooler, "normal" summer? But don't worry - I won't bore you with graphs and table and statistics. I wanted the information for my own use, since hard data is useful for making certain decisions - like which beans grow better than others. Of course, taste matters too, and I'll be doing taste tests this fall and winter. Like the Lazy Housewife green beans, if they don't taste good (to me), I won't grow them.

Mrocumiere. Yes, they really are that colour.

Since I only planted a single row of most varieties, I don't have a lot of beans for each variety. And I want to keep some to plant next year (a single year trial, especially when that year has abnormal weather, really isn't enough to make firm decisions) and some to eat, of course!

But, I'm excited about being able to grow such a good source of protein. In such pretty packages ;)

Littlefield's Special. Or, as I like to call them, Holstein beans.

I'm so excited, I'm willing to send seeds to anyone who wants to try to grow dry beans next year.  Yes, for free.

  • Limited to Canadian addresses, since I'm getting mixed info about mailing seeds across the border (If you are really interested in getting some to try, and live in the US, e-mail me, and we'll work something out). 
  • You will only be getting a few seeds (4-10, depending on the variety and the amount of requests). I'm trying to share the joy of growing dry beans, not take business away from seed growers.
  • I make no guarantees about germination, disease contamination (but as someone who worked in plant pathology for years, I'm pretty confident in saying these are good, clean seeds) or hybridization, as I took no effort to separate varieties, since beans seldom cross-pollinate. 
  • Amounts are limited, so when I'm out, I'm out - first come, first serve! 
  • I still want to dry the beans out a bit, as well as finish the harvest, so I won't be mailing anything out for a month or so.

What do I ask in return? If you have a blog, please blog about this (and link back here, naturally), and blog about your results next year. And hey, if you want to send me some seeds in return, feel free :)

List of varieties (see key below for the varieties in the first photo):
  • Ireland Creek Annie (limited)
  • Black Turtle (good harvest)
  • Calypso (harvest not complete)
  • Blue Jay (good harvest)
  • Littlefield's Special (limited)
  • Canadian Wonder (good harvest)
  • Black Valentine (good harvest)
  • Saskatchewan Dry (limited)
  • Fall Speckled (limited)
  • Mrocumiere (harvest not complete, should be good)
  • Lina Sisco's Bird Egg (limited)
  • Romano (limited)
  • Pinto (VERY limited - only one plant grew!)
  • Jacob's Cattle (limited)
  • Soldier (harvest not complete)
How to get seeds? Leave a comment here, and e-mail me at myoldnewhouse at gmail dot com with the list of varieties you want to try and your mailing address.

Oh, and if you have any good bean recipes? Share!


  1. Oh, I want. And honestly - I have no idea WHAT I'd want. Would it be okay to ask for a surprise? If we're not on our own land by next spring, I can grow them at my mother's house. And per your comment on my blog - I would LOVE some heritage tomato seeds and I'm willing to try grown AN okra plant.

    1. Yep - I can sent you a selection of what I think are good varieties. And if you don't mind waiting even longer, I'll add in the okra and tomatoes. And maybe a few other surprises from the stash! Just make sure you e-mail me your mailing address :)

    2. I did send you my address, right? And of course I don't mind waiting - it'll be months before I can plant anything.

    3. Yep - got it! Do you know if you're getting land this coming year?

  2. What a great selection of beans! And there are even a couple I haven't heard of before.

    I love the idea of sharing beans among gardeners. What a great way to preserve these delicious and unique varieties!

    1. Thanks Karen! Frankly, I was amazed at how many different dry beans there are out there. I had to limit myself - due to space and money ;)

      And let me know if you'd like any to try.

  3. Wow! What an awesome shot, and an awesome selection! I'd love to try growing some! I have just the spot for them too.... I think we gardeners need to stick together, don't we? It's a shame to think about how many varieties have disappeared and been replaced by tasteless types.
    Emailing you now!
    Thanks for a wonderful post.

    1. Thanks Carolyn! And I agree - there are so many amazing varieties out there - if you can only find them!

  4. I'm up for a surprise pack as well ( although those blue jays definitely look interesting.) I'll email you shortly!

    1. Callie, I haven't received an e-mail yet! And I'll be sure to send you some Blue Jays :)

  5. I'm game, i will blog about it, please save a few for me, any kind or all kinds, I am interested.. Farmgal

    1. will do - and remember to email your address to me!

  6. I don't live in Canada but I am of partial French heritage.
    Would love to grow some Mrocumiere beans or other colorful speckled beans and blog about them, if you have any left to share.

    Stumbled upon your blog while hunting for Mrocumiere bean. Mrocumiere is one my French Grandma used to grow and cook. Unfortunately her entire seed collection, home, and garden were all wiped out by a major natural disaster before she could pass any heirloom seeds on.

    I want to grow Mrocumiere with my son and wife, and blog about our results. I remember it from childhood as very flavorful, & fun for kids due to glowing purple dry bean color. But it's become quite hard to find.

    If you have run out of Mrocumiere beans, I'd like to try Blue Jay.

    If you're out of both of those, Lina Sisco's Bird Egg looks interesting.

    You are FABULOUS for growing out & sharing these uncommon horticultural beans to preserve their beauty and flavor for future gardeners!

    I'm at work and have run out of lunch break. Will email you later with my seed request and bean recipes saved from my French Grandma :)

    1. Thanks Greenguy! I still have a few beans left that I can send you. The normal caveats apply: you will only get a few seeds, and I haven't done any germination or pathogen testing, but the beans look good. Also, sending seeds across the border is uncertain, so any shipments to the US have to wait until I can get across the border to mail them (I should be making a trip within a month or so).

      I didn't get an email from you with your contact details, so please send one to myoldnewhouse at gmail dot com.

      Thanks again!

  7. Hi !

    I'm a bean collector, grower in the U.S. and I was wondering what is your source for the bean Llittlefield's Special? The reason I ask is that in the early 80's I had an outcross that I had named Holstein. The bean had true jet black markings on it, and not the dark purple that many people often refer to as black. After 3 growing seasons I had determined that the bean was stable and would grow true to form each season. I had distributed some samples of Holstein through The Seed Savers Exchange located in Decorah, Iowa. I got away from my bean collection for 22 years, but began collecting and growing again in 2011. I am try to track down my Holstein bean as I believe there is a possibity it might still be around. That is why I am curious as to your source for Littlefield's Special which you say you like to call Holstein.
    Thanks and would love to see your comment.

    1. Hi BlueJay! I got the seeds from a Canadian grower and seed seller, Cottage Gardener ( I know they get a lot of their seed stock from Seed Savers, but I can't vouch for the origin of the Littlefield's Special seeds. To me, they look black, but there is a purple tinge under certain lights. I can send you a sample, if you'd like. Just send me your contact details to myoldnewhouse at gmail dot com.

      Oh, and I love that you are a bean collector. If I had more growing space, I'd be collecting and growing more too! I'd love to hear more about the varieties you have.

  8. Hello! I just discovered your blog and I am in love. I am in London ON now, but grew up in Niagara-on-the-Lake (not far from you!). I would love it if you could send me some beans. I have some Blue Jay and Orca, but would be interested in trying some other varieties.

    You can check out my gardening adventures at

    Beautiful picture--that swirl of beans!

    1. Thanks Holly! I have a few beans left, so send me your contact info at myoldnewhouse at gmail dot com, and I'll get them in the mail. If this rain ever stops, we'll be planting them soon!

  9. Hi K. !

    Do love your website it's very nice. I'll probably come back from time to time and take a look at it.

    I just thought perhaps if you definitely knew that your Littlefield's special came form Seed Savers Exchange then perhaps there was a chance that maybe it might be my old Holstein since you were referring to that way. However the more I look at your photo of Littlefield's Special it probably comes from Heritage Harvest seeds in Canada. The fellow that owns the business is a collector and probably a bean historian of sorts himself. I actually have most of the varieties shown in your Great Dry Bean Give Away photo.

    However if you would like to know more about my bean collection and see what I have you can go to my website. I think you might find it interesting.

    Wishing you a wonderful gardening season

    1. It's incredibly interesting - I'm so envious! And wow - you developed Blue Jay!! You'll be happy to know it was one of my best beans last year, in the top three for productivity, in an incredibly dry year. I can't wait to see what it does this year.

      I'll definitely be spending some more time on your site. Thanks Russ!!

  10. Great site, thanks! I am excitedly growing Holstein beans this summer, and the pods look pretty big. But when I open one up, the part that is supposed to be white is still green. I'm a total greenhorn at bean growing--do they obtain the white/brown coloration after they're picked, or do you wait until they've obtained the color on the bush? Any info you might have would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks, Sara

    1. Hi Sara!

      The pods have to be completely dry before you pick dry beans. At that time, the beans should be white and black. Hope this helps - good luck!

    2. Oh, thanks! That's hugely helpful! I'll just keep waiting, then. ( :



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