Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kinghorn Wax Beans

Kirk asked me why I wasn't raising Grandpa Kinghorn's wax beans and I felt a pang of guilt. What was my excuse? That years ago I'd tried them just once and the crop failed? I couldn't say that to Kirk as it sounded too pathetic. My garden soil may have been horrible back then but there was no reason for my not growing them now. I have trouble growing some crops such as cantaloupe where as my grand father grew lovely full sized ones on the other side of the mountain but sixty day beans - I can do that.

Flipping to the page in my genealogy notebook, I looked down at the excerpt from the Gurney's seed catalog advertising Grandpa's seeds.

(55 days) " A long-time favorite with home gardeners, King Horn's becoming popular with commercial growers, too. We'd guess they like the way the slender, 5-6 inch pods stay tender when they're processed. And the way the easy-to handle clusters make picking a cinch. And the way they taste. An all-around good bean. "

I've wondered several times as I've gazed at the advertisement why did the seed package say King Horn Wax instead of Kinghorn Wax as it was originally? Were they a hybrid? And as to why they no longer carry them it could have been demand or disagreement with the seeds growers over cost because most seed companies do not grow their own seeds.

But it hardly mattered since Gurney's weren't carrying them anymore. I knew better than to wait until spring to search and order Kinghorn Wax beans lest my resolve wane in the busy season of livestock babies and planting. I went to the internet and began my search. Page after page scrolled by and there was a long list of commercial test results for Grandpa's beans but no home garden seed companies carrying them. It wasn't completely surprising since the first bushel of Kinghorn Wax beans had been given to Birds Eye Division of General Foods. There after for many years they grew them exclusively for their canning and freezing. When the seeds were marketed to the home gardener I don't know and maybe it was never an angle that was very developed.

But I can't use a fifty pound bag of seeds like a farmer would use and so I tried new search words and finally found Crosman Seed Company and gave them a call.

They seemed a bit surprised at my inquiry in NOVEMBER. Then when I asked if the seeds had undergone any genetic changes since they were first produced, it became real quiet on the other end of the line. The women commented that the seed brand was very old. I felt a need to explain and told the women I was aware that they were old since my grandfather had been dead a long time and he was the original breeder. A real warmth entered her voice and she told me to wait a minute while she checked . To my relief Grandfather's seeds hadn't been modified into a hybrid. At the same time her words ,"They are old." hit me with added force and I wondered when these seeds had been developed? My grandfather quit working for Woodruff Seed Company in May of 1958 when they sold to Asgrow Seed Company. Sometime during the twenty-seven years he'd been in their employment he'd spent a period of seven years, sometimes on company time, developing the seed.

When I checked to see how old a strain of seed had to be, to be categorized as heirloom, it said at least fifty years. Grandpa's seeds more than qualified. Knowing that old seeds have a way of going by the way side for something new and different, not necessarily better. I was enveloped with a feeling of responsibility to ensure the survival of the work Grandpa had started.

The internet search stirred warm memories and in my mind I could see Grandpa bent over with his hoe working the rocky soil of their garden while Grandma and I picked strawberries. Maybe it was the rocks that held heat through the night that allowed Grandpa to grow such nice cantaloupe but the best thing to come out of the garden were the cucumbers and tomatoes. I still love a cucumber and tomatoe sandwich.

These memories and others that lent a warm blanket of the past helped me to recognized just how integrated my memories of my grandparents are with gardening, whether it was working in it or eating the harvest from it.

I believe because a garden has been such a integral part of our life with our own family, our children have longed for one of their own. And now our grand daughters love gardens. It's a legacy that we pass on and with it I'm now determined will be Grandpa's Kinghorn Wax beans.

It will be interesting to see how they do next summer and how the seed saving goes.

Be sure and check out
for she is giving away a quilt in honor of her dear friend Alice's passing. Sorry I don't know how to do the thing where you can just click on it to go there. I need my daughter to teach me that trick. She'll be home for Thanksgiving. It's tough being computer illiterate.


  1. Great story! Got a bag of Kinghorn Wax in front of me and will give the plants some extra love after Reading this!

  2. So excited you are trying them. I am giving them a try in our new location and hope they do as well here. I can't see why they won't. Let me know how they do for you.