Ralph's Italian Heirloom Pole Bean Grow out

5 months ago
last modified: 5 months ago

Back when I was in my early 20s and in grad school a professor in the college (Grace College), named Ronald Clutter mentioned to me that he and his wife had been growing and saving seed of an Italian pole bean. When they had lived in Pennsylvania (Clarks Summit, if I recall correctly) his barber, named Ralph, grew these beans and kept a box of seed in the barbershop, offering seed to anyone who would grow it. The Clutters accepted some seed and grew it for at least some years. I believe they carried the seed to the Dallas area before arriving in Winnona Lake, Indiana to teach. He gave me some seed around 1985 and I grew it a number of years, losing my seed when we moved to Mexico for some years of ministry.

I know I offered the seed of Ralph's Italian Heirloom through the Seed Savers Exchange, and upon return to the USA in 2001, I obtained more seed, growing it in NJ. I don't have my records on this, at hand right now, but I think I lost the seed when we moved to Oklahoma in 2005. Might have had seed with me but I believe I lost it shortly after moving here.


Anyway, Mike Dunton, of Victory Seeds may be the last person around with viable seed. Here's a link where one can express interest in obtaining this seed. If enough people sign up, he'll take seed out of storage and do a grow out for 2023.

Link: I would like to get Ralph's Italian Heirloom Pole Bean

I don't even have photos of this bean since it's only been in the last 8 years, or so, that I've begun earnestly taking pictures of varieties I grow. Ralph's has fairly long, Romano type pods. It makes a decent snap when picked young but the pods become tough as they age. The seed is very plump and mottled tan and brown. I suspect it would be a good shelly bean. It would definitely make a good dry bean.

Anyway, just a heads up that this bean may become available again, and a shout out to Victory Seeds!

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