Some gardeners plant the same varieties year after year, depending on past performance to guarantee future success. Why mess with something that works? Others, myself included, like to try the latest cultivars. We’re always searching for that new and improved flower or vegetable that will make this year’s garden the best ever.
When several of my seed catalogs proudly featured a new pole bean, Monte Gusto, I was eager to try it out. How would it compare to my usual choice, Emerite? (Emerite is an awesome bean—long, straight, early, prolific, and delicious!)
Then I discovered that my favorite catalog had discontinued Emerite. How could they? Not wanting to order elsewhere (I’d have to pay shipping for a single seed packet), I ordered Fortex, a variety that has received rave reviews in past years.
In mid-May, I set up my bean tower and planted the seeds—Monte Gusto on one side and Fortex on the other. They’d be easy to tell apart, as Monte Gusto produces yellow beans and Fortex is the typical green color. I often choose to grow yellow veggies because, when it comes to harvesting, they’re easier to find among the green leaves.
Unfortunately, I got distracted after planting and forgot to make labels. A week later, I was wondering which bean I’d planted where. Well, I’d eventually figure it out!
My first impression was wow, those germinated quickly, about a week after sowing in our cool soil. But only half the beans had come up! Which ones were they? I had to wait an entire week longer for the seeds on the other side of the pole to sprout. I made a note so I’d remember—speed of germination is a major consideration in our short-season climate.
It was mid-July when I noticed the first beans were ready to pick. They were the early-sprouters, not a big surprise. And—they were yellow! A mere two months after sowing, we were harvesting 8 to 9 inch long, slim, straight beans of a delicate buttery hue. I was impressed, but how would they perform in the kitchen?
Being so long and straight, they were easy to prepare. I simply pinched off the ends and snapped them into 5 or 6 bite-sized pieces, ready to cook. As we tasted them that evening, we agreed—they were delicious!
But what about the Fortex beans? They finally appeared by the end of July, two weeks later. They, too, were long and straight, and similarly easy to prepare. Most of our meals included both varieties. While we didn’t notice any significant difference in flavor, and neither was tough or stringy, the green pods were thicker and more solid, giving us a bit more bean in each bite.
Both of these varieties are touted as French filet beans, and can be picked and eaten while still skinny. We prefer to maximize our harvest, so I wait until they’re a more traditional size. They’re still tender and tasty at this point, and I don’t need as many per serving.
Since the fridge was now bursting with beans, the final concern was how long they’d keep without spoiling. You can only have beans with dinner for so many nights in a row, and I’d planted summer squash, too. This is where Fortex surpassed Monte Gusto. In less than a week, the yellow beans developed dark lines that, while they weren’t a sign of decay, just didn’t look appetizing. (We ate them anyway, and they tasted just fine.) Fortex kept well for up to two weeks with no problems.
I prefer planting pole beans because, once they start, they keep on producing all summer. That one planting has been enough to keep us and our friends in beans through Labor Day.
What will I choose next year? I’m definitely ordering Monte Gusto again, although I may plant them farther apart to make harvesting easier. They’re so incredibly prolific, you don’t need as many vines.
Then, I’m considering a repeat of Fortex—I like that they’re so long (some passed ten inches!) and meaty. But I’m also considering hunting down Emerite again. We like it better than Fortex, so I may just pay the extra postage. It’s an open-pollinated variety, so once I have it, I can save seeds each year.
Or, maybe they’ll announce yet another new variety to try!
Fortex bean photo from Pinetree Seeds, my favorite seed company. We ate all ours before I remembered to take a photo!