Perennial Thicket Bean
Improvement Status: Cultivated wild material
Seeds per packet: ~20
Germination tested: Botanical sample - not germination tested
Perennial thicket bean is a legume native to eastern North America. It is the only true bean (Phaseolus genus) native to a temperate region, while all of the others are tropical or sub-tropical. It is actually a close cousin of the Lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus). Thicket beans grow on twining vines and can often be found growing on roadsides or in other disturbed areas in their native range. While the beans are smaller than most domesticated beans, they are equally edible and quite tasty when cooked. Archaeological evidence from sites in Arkansas and Oklahoma indicates that they were eaten historically by indigenous peoples, and that domestication for non-shattering seed pods was likely to have occurred. This accession came from the wild in Pennsylvania. We believe there's great potential for breeding work to be done to improve this valuable addition to the perennial vegetable garden.
Our seed comes from Eric Toensmeier of Holyoke, Massachusetts, the noted author of books including Paradise Lot, Perennial Vegetables, Edible Forest Gardens, and The Carbon Farming Solution. We're very honored to be offering seeds this year for four perennial vegetables from Eric's personal collection. It was a 2013 lecture by Eric on perennial industrial crops and carbon farming that gave Nate the idea to start EFN.
GROWING TIPS: Start in flats, as germination may be uneven. This plant is known for taking over whatever space offered to it. It thrives even in partial shade, especially with damp woodland soil. You may want to plant it in a bed where it can grow by itself so it doesn't choke out other plants. As a native plant, it is very resistant to pests and diseases, so if you find you have no use for it you will need to control it by mowing or by digging it up. It is a climber.
(Photo courtesy Fritzflohrreynolds, available under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, depicts the same species, but a different accession from Eric's.)