< Vegetables



Beans were “standards of the garden for summer culture. It is an every-day dish for the table.”[1] They were grown in every part of the nation and incorporated into the cuisine of every region and ethnic enclave.

Plain spoken farmers of the 19th-century United States made rough and ready categorizations of beans into three groups: broad beans (Windsor, Mazagan, Lisbon, Toker, Sandwich, Fava), bush beans (Black, Cranberry, Navy, Red Kidney, White Kidney, Quaker, Denmark, Valentine, Swiss, Haricot), and pole beans (Scarlet Runner, Yard Long, French, White Lima, Green Lima, Speckled Lima). The broad beans posed problems for growers because heat would cause the blossoms to wilt and fall before setting pods, necessitating early planting in northern climates—and the possibility of frost damage—and winter cultivation in the south. The broad beans attracted a host of hungry insects, demanding the cultivators close attention and experiments in pest control (dousing plants in tobacco water or brine). The Kidney varieties generally loved heat, so parts of the north struggled to produced crops. But they grew quickly and could be sown between rows of corn, celery, or cabbage. Of the pole beans, Limas tended to rot when wet and chill. But as a group, they responded most vigorously to extensive manuring.

Because certain varieties of beans inspired demand, field cultivation of White Limas, Windsor Beans, Red Kidney Beans, Pea Beans [Navy beans], White Marrow, Blue Pod, and Valentine Green Beans occurred as well as widespread kitchen gardening for home use. At the market, cooks referred to bush beans as “snaps” because the pods broke crisply. They were purchased in the pod and shelled immediately before preparation. Horticulturists believed bush beans to have hailed from India, and cite 1597 as the date of their introduction into England; they believed many of the Pole beans, particularly the Limas and Carolina Sewee bean (small butter bean), to have originated in South America.[2]

The culinary treatment of beans tended to be conventional. Broad beans were boiled, sometimes pureed. Snap beans might be cooked in the pod or shelled and boiled, baked, stewed, rendered into soup, or pickled. Pole beans were boiled and pickled. All were capable of being preserved if picked and shelled when the beans were full grown but green and spread in the sun to dry. The dried legumes could easily be reconstituted by soaking and boiling. Over the course of the century, certain bean varieties developed specialized kitchen uses. The black bean became favored for mock turtle soup; the cranberry for making New England baked beans; the navy bean for soup, and the yard long bean (asparagus bean) for boiled green beans. Certain dishes that were believe traditional—red beans and rice for instance—did not appear in print in North America during the nineteenth century, although it can be found in Spanish American cook books.

If one read the culinary press exclusively—the cookbooks and magazines—one would not understand which of the plethora of bean varieties developed by seedsmen during the nineteenth century best suited various table uses. Only in 1885, in Chef John Harder’s Physiology of Taste, was a cook’s survey undertaken of the tastes and kitchen properties of the foremost bean varieties available to Americans. Reader’s of the agricultural press, however, would have seen these issues discussed in detail since the late 1820s. Consider Fearing Burr, Jr.’s, Garden Vegetables and How to Cultivate Them, published in multiple editions beginning in 1866.[3] He includes an exhaustive list of the most popular varieties available in the country, with alternate names, descriptions, cultivation techniques, and uses. A digest of his remarks about bush beans will illustrate the wealth of material available about taste aesthetics of beans in the horticultural literature.

1. Buist, Family Kitchen Gardener (1850), p. 25.
2. White, Gardening in the South (New York, 1857), p. 242.
3. Burr, Garden Vegetables, and How to Cultivate Them (Boston: J. E. Tilton & Company, 1886), 261-292.

Black-eyed China    History

Early. Yields well, ripens off at once. As a string-bean, it is of fair quality, good when shelled in the green state, and farinaceous [starchy] and mild flavored when ripe.

Blue Pod    History

Middle season. A field rather than a garden variety, though the green pods are tender and well flavored. Earliest of field varieties; more prolific, more generally cultivated, and more abundant in the market, than either the Pea-bean or the White Marrow. It is, however, much less esteemed.

Canada Yellow (Round American Kidney)    History

Middle season. Quite productive, and excellent as a shelled-bean, green or dry. The young pods are not so tender as those of many other sorts, and ar but little used.

Chilian    History

Pods are five inches and a half long, and contain five seeds. Ripe seeds are of a clear, bright pink, or rose color, kidney-shaped, and of a large size. Healthy and productive, much esteemed for the tender, pulpy character of the young pods. Large-sized and good quality beans.

Crescent-eyed (Half-Moon)    History

Middle season. Ripe beans are white with a large, rose-red patch about the eye. Though green pods are tender and well flavored, it is generally cultivated for its large seeds, excellent used in a green or ripe state.

Dun-colored    History

Early. Drab colored kidneys, 5/8ths of an inch long, and a fourth of an inch thick. As a shelled bean it is of little value. As an early string bean, it is one of the best.

Dwarf Cranberry    History

Middle season. Hardy and productive. Young pods are not only succulent and tender but are suitable for use at a more advanced stage of growth than those of most varieties. Beans when green are farinaceous and well flavored, but after ripening, are little used, the color being objectionable.

Dwarf Horticultural    History

Half early. Quite productive. Young pods are tender of good quality. Yet generally cultivated for its seeds, which are much esteemed. For shelling in the green state, it is one of the best of the Dwarfs.

Dwarf Sabre (Case-Knife)    History

Middle season. French variety with pods seven or eight inches long and an inch in width. The ripe bean is white, kidney-shaped. A vigorous grower occupying much space. One of the most productive of all varieties, yielding its long, broad pods in great profusion. The young pods are remarkable for their tender and succulent character; and the beans, both in a green and dried state, are of good quality.

Early China (Red-eyed China)    History

Hardy and productive. The young pods, though succulent and tender, are inferior to those of some other varieties. The seeds, green or ripe, are thin-skinned, mealy, and mild flavored.

Early Rachel    History

Ripe seed is yellowish-brown, white at one of the ends, kidney-shaped, often abruptly shortened. Hardy, and moderately productive, as an early string-bean, may be desirable; but as a shell-bean, green or dry, it is of little value.

Early Valentine    History

Pale-pink seeds, marbled or variegated with rose-red, oblong, nearly straight. Has little merit as a shelled-bean, but of the seventy beans experimentally grown, no one excelled it in the tender and succulent character of the pods in the green state. Of moderate size, they are remarkable for their thick, fleshy sides,

Golden Cranberry    History

Middle season. Roundish-ovoid, pale greenish-yellow seeds. As a string-bean, or for shelling in the green state, it is inferior to many other varieties. As a variety for baking, it is much esteemed.

Long Yellow Six Weeks    History

One of the earliest dwarf varieties. Quite productive, and an excellent early string-bean, but less valuable as a green shelled-bean, or for cooking when ripe.

Mohawk    History

Early. Ripe seeds are variegated drab, dull purple, and different shades of brown. They are kidney shaped. Extensively grown by market-gardeners as an early string-bean. Shelled beans, green or dray, are considered inferior to many other varieties.

Negro Long-Pod    History

Strong and vigorous. One of the most productive of all the Dwarfs. Highly prized for the narrow, handsome form of the young pods, and for their uniformly fine green color. The seeds, either green or ripe, are seldom used.

Newington Wonder    History

Middle to late season. As a string-bean, it is one of the best. The pods, though not large, are crisp, succulent, and tender, and are produced in great abundance throughout most of the season. Seeds too small to be of value for the table.

Nonpareil    History

Middle season. Ripe seeds are strongly kidney, shaped, nearly three fourths of an inch long, white, with a broad irregular patch of red about the eye. The young pods are tender and excellent, and the seeds, green or ripe, are surpassed by few, if any, of the Dwarf sorts, in mildness and delicacy of flavor.

Pea-bean    History

Long season. Pure white, roundish-ovoid seeds five sixteenths of an inch long. As a garden variety, it is of little value, though the young pods are crisp and tender It is cultivated almost exclusively as a field-bean. With the White Marrow and Blue Pod, the principle market variety. The best of all baking varieties.

Pottawottomie    History

Remarkable for their strong, vigorous habit, and large, luxuriant foliage. Light, creamy-pink kidney shaped seeds, spotted with red or reddish brown Young pods are inferior in crispness and tenderness of texture. The seeds are remarkablely large and well flavored.

Red Speckled    History

Middle season. Seeds are variegated with deep red and pale drab. Kidney-shaped. Common to the gardens of this country for nearly two centuries Young pods are of medium quality; but the seeds green or dry, are mild and delicate.

Refugee    History

Late season. Light drab cylindrical seeds, tapering to the ends, splotched with numerous spots of bright purple. Young pods are thick, fleshy, and tender in texture. As a string-bean, or for pickling, it is considered one of the best. The seeds are rarely used.

Rob Roy    History

One of the earliest dwarfs. Oblong, clear bright yellow seeds. Desirable as a string-beean rather than for it qualities as a green shelled-bean.

Round Yellow Six Weeks    History

Early. As an early string bean the variety is worth cultivating. The seeds are little used.

Swiss Crimson    History

Late season. Kidney-shaped beans are clear bright pink, striped and spotted with deep purplish red. As a shelled-bean, of excellent quality, green or dried.

Turtle Soup    History

Quite late. Small, glossy-black, somewhat oblong seeds. The ripened seeds are used, as the name implies, in the preparation of a soup, which, as respects color and flavor, bears some resemblance to that made from the green turtle.

Victoria    History

One of the earliest dwarf varieties. Flesh colored seeds spotted with purple. The young pods, as well as the seeds, green or dry, are inferior to many other sorts. Grown because it is remarkably early.

White’s Early    History

As an early string-bean, it is decidedly on of the best, and is also one of the hardiest and most prolific. The pods should be plucked when quite young.

White Flageolet    History

Half early. White, kidney-shaped seeds. The young pods are crisp and tender; and the seeds, green or rip, are farinaceous, and remarkable for delicacy of flavor.

White Kidney    History

Middle season. As a shelled bean, green or ripe, it is decidedly one of the best of the dwarfs.

White Marrow    History

Middle to late season. Clear white, egg-shaped seeds. As a string-bean, the White Marriw is of average quality; but, for shelling the green state, it is surpassed by few, if any, of the Dwarf varieties. In almost every section of the United States and well as in the Canadas, it is largely cultivated for market.

Yellow-eyed China    History

Early. White, spotted beans, with a flattened kidney shape. One of the most health, vigorous, and prolific. Good string bean, excellent for baking.

Black Bean Soup (Housekeeping in the Blue Grass 1881)    History

Soak a coffee-cup of beans over night, and put on next morning with a knuckle of veal. After four hours boiling take off liquor and strain it; pick off a few shreds of veal and put in and return to pot. Thicken with brown flour and flavor with grounds spieces, such as allspice, pepper, and cloves. Slice a couple of hard-boiled eggs, a couple of slices of lemon, and a cup of wine, and put in tureen, then pour in soup.

Mock Turtle Soup of Spanish Beans (American Farmer 1848)    History

Take the usual quantity of beans (the Spanish, a black bean) wash them, put them into the pot with the proper quantity of water, boil them until thoroughly done, then dip the beans out of the pot and press them through a colander, return into the water of the pot in which the beans are boiled, the flour of the beans thus pressed through the colander, tie up some Thyme, put it in the pot, and let it simmer a few minuts, then boil a few eggs hard, take the shells off, quarter the eggs and put them into the soup, together with a sliced lemon, and season with pepper and salt and butter, and you will have a soup so nearly approaching the flavor of the real turtle soup, that few, except for the absence of the meat, would be able to distinguish the difference. Those who like wine in their soup, can, of course, add it, so as to suit their taste. This bean is called the ‘Black Dwarf,’ and was we believe, introduced into our country by that friend of agriculture, Mr. George Law, of our city, to whom the farming public is indebted for many good things before and since.

Kidney Beans, with Pure of Onions, Soubise (Harder’s Practical Cookery 1885)    History

When the Beans are shelled wash them in cold water; then put them in boiling water on a brisk fire. When cooked put them into a saucepan with a piece of butter. Season with salt and pepper, and add a few spoonfuls of puree of onions, white or brown. Let them simmer for fifteen minutes, and in serving garnish with scallops of Artichokes around the dish.

Red Beans Stewed (50 Years in a Maryland Kitchen 1881)    History

To a pint of beans, two quarts of water. The beans are better if put in water to soak over night. Next morning put them in two quart of fresh water, directly the fire is made, to boil for dinner. When perfectly soft, mash them up in the water they were boiled in. Add a good lump of butter and a spoonful of lard, or a double quantity of butter. Season with pepper, salt, parsley, thyme, and onion if you like it (well washed first, and wrung in a towel). After the beans are seasoned and mashed, take them off the fire and set them in the corner to simmer until dinner time. Add water at discretion, if simmered too thick.

Puree of Dry Red Beans, Conde (Harder’s Practical Cookery 1885)    History

Tae one quart of Beans. Pick and wash them well and then soak them for three hours in two quarts of fresh water. Drain them and put them into a saucepan with two quarts of water, and one of broth, and put them on the fire to boil. Add a faggot of parsley, garnished with leeks and celery, two carrots, two onions, into which stick four cloves, a piece of raw ham bone, and a little salt. Cover the saucepan and cook them slowly until thoroughly well done. Then take out the ham bone, the faggot, the onions and the carrots, and pound the soup through a colander. Add two quarts of game broth and rub the whole through a fine sieve. Put it back into the saucepan and set it on the fire, stirring it well until it boils, then set it on the side of the fire and continue boiling slowly for half an hour. Skim it, and when ready to serve add a piece of butter. Serve with boiled rice or friend bread crumbs.

White or Colored Beans, in Salad (What to Eat 1863)    History

When cooked in water and drained, put a layer of them in a crockery vessel, about one inch in thickness; then sprinkle on it salt and pepper; repeat the same process till all your beans are in; then cover and leave thus for four hours; put the beans in a salad dish after having drained them; add to t hem the oil, vinegar, chopped parsley, and salt necessary, and serve them hot.

Lima, or Sugar Beans (Virginia Housewife 1838)    History

Like all other spring and summer vegetables, they must be young and freshly gathered: boil them till tender, drain them, add a little butter, and serve them up. These beans are easily preserved for winter use, and will be nearly as good as fresh ones. Gather them on a dry day, when full grown, but quite young; have a clean and dry keg, sprinkle some salt in the bottom, put in a layer of pods, containing the beans, then a little salt—do this till the keg is full; lay a board on with a weight, to press the down; cover the keg very close, and keep it in a dry, cool place—they should be put up as late in the season, as they can be with convenience. When used, the pods must be washed, and laid in fresh water all night; shell them next day, and keep them in water till you are going to boil them; when tender, serve them up with melted butter in a boat. French beans (snaps) may be preserved in the same manner.

Lima Beans (Lady’s New Book of Cookery 1852)    History

Was in cold water 1 quart of Lima beans shelled; then put them in a stew-pan with just enough boiling water to cover them. Let them boil, with the stew-pan closely covered for half an hour; then try them to see if they are tender; turn off almost all the water, and add a tea-cup nearly full of butter, salt and pepper to your taste. Stir them well together. Heat them for a few minutes longer and serve.

Succotash (The Young Housekeeper’s Friend 1846)    History

Cut off the corn from the cobs, and, an hour and a half before dinner, put the cobs, with a few shelled beans, into cold water to boil. After one hour take out the cobs, put in the corn and boil it half an hour. There should be no more water at first than will be necessary to make the succotash of the right thickness; as having too much occasions a loss of the richness imparted by the cobs. When you take it up, add a small piece of butter. This is much better than to boil the corn on the cob and then cut it off. It is a very good way, when a family are tied of fresh meat in hot weather, to boil a piece of pork in another pot until partly done, and the grossest fat has boiled out, and then put it with the succotash to boil the remainder of the tie. It gives a very good flavor to the corn, and is an excellent dinner. Corn on the ear should boil half an hour.

Baked Beans (Mrs. Putnam’s Receipt Book 1850)    History

Put a quart of white beans to soak in soft water, at night; the next morning wash them out of that water; put them into a pot with more water than will cover t hem; set t hem over the fire to simmer until they are quite tender; wash them out again and put them into an earthen pot, scald and gash one and a half pounds of pork, place it on top of the beans and into them, so as to have the rind of the pork even with the beans; fill the put with water, in which is mixed two table-spoonsful of molasses. Bake them five or six hours; if baked in a brick oven it is well to have them stand over night.

Best Pork and Beans (Jennie June’s American Cookery 1878)    History

Pick over a quart of small white beans, put them to soak over night. Set them to boil the next morning, throwing off the water, just before they reach boiling point. Cover with cold water again, put in a square pound of nice sweet salt pork and let both boil together till the beans are tender. When the beans are done, the water should have all become absorbed; they are then put in one pan to brown, and the pork in another, scoring the latter first, through the skin. Before serving set the pork in the centre of the beans. Serve with pickles and horseradish.

Fried Beans (Cooking Manual 1879)    History

Fry two ounces of chopped onions in one ounce of butter until golden brown; put them into them about a quart of cold boiled white beans, season them with a teaspoonful of salt, and half a saltspoonful of pepper, moisten them with half a pint of any brown gravy, and serve them hot.

Bean Croquettes (Philadelphia Cook Book 1886)    History

1 pint of white soup beans, 1 tablespoonful of molasses, 1 tablespoonful of vinegar, 1 tablespoonful of butter, Salt and cayenne to taste. Wash the beans, and soak them over night in lukewarm water. In the morning, drain off this water, cover with fresh, cold water, bring slowly to a boil, and boil slowly one hour; drain again, cover with one quart of fresh boiling water, and boil slowly another hour. When done, drain, and press the beans through a colander, then add the other ingredients, mix well and stand away to cool. When cold, form into small balls, dip first in egg and then in bread crumbs, and fry in boiling fat.

Beans and Oysters (Illinois Cook Book 1881)    History

Boil beans until ready for the baking; season pleantifully with pepper, salt, butter and bits of pork if liked: put a layer of beans into quite a deep baking dish then a layer of raw oysters, and so on until the dish is nearly full, pour over it a teacupful of the oyster liquor and bake one hour.

Bean Soup (New Bedford Practical Receipt Book 1862)    History

Soak some nice white beans all night, change the water and put them on the fire, when hot change again, add plenty of water and put them on to parboil, put a piece of pork in another boiler and partly cook it, then put your pork in whatever you intend for your soup and put in plenty of water; as soon as the beans begin to break, skim them out and put them with the pork, add a piece of red pepper pod, or some Cayenne; if the pork is like to be done too much it should be taken out, at a suitable time put in some slices of turnip and when they have boiled a while some potatoes, and twenty minutes before dinner some Indian dumplings, stir thickening with a little flour and some find Indian meal. It can be made with beef instead of pork, but it must be boiled a good deal before it goes into the soup, or it will be too salt.

Snap Beans, Stewed and Boiled (La Cuisine Creole 1885)    History

Pick and snap them when green and tender, cut them small, and throw them into boiling water; let them cook gently for two hours; then stir ina half cup of broth and a cup of milk; let them stew in this for half an hour longer; season with salt and pepper to taste. Many like them cooked with a piece of lean backon. They require several hours boiling, if not very young. Put the beans in first, and when half done, put in a a pound or so of bacon to an ordinary mess of beans.

Bean Pickles (Sense in the Kitchen 1884)    History

Prepare young beans from the late crops; wash and boil in slightly salted water until tender; drain them through a sieve or colander, then dry with a cloth. Pour boiling vinegar, spiced to taste, over them, repeat this two or three days, or until they look green

French Beans (Virginia Cookery-Book 1885)    History

Cut off the stalk end first, then turn to the point and strip off the strings. If not quite freshly gathered, have a bowl of salt-water (only a little salt) standing before you, and as you string the beans throw them into it. When all are prepared put them on the fire in boiling water, with some salt in it. In fifteen or twenty minutes they will be tender; th en take them out and throw them into a colander to drain quickly. Dish them up with a little butter, salt, and pepper. Butter is thought to keep them looking green.

String Beans (Unrivalled Cook-Book 1886)    History

Break off tops and bottoms, and string very carefully; t hen pare both edges with a sharp knife, lay the beans in salted cold water for twenty minutes, drain, and put into a saucepan of boiling water; boil quickly—twenty minutes if well-grown, less if small—but remember that the beans must be tender; drain off the water, put into a hot dish, stir in a liberal lump of butter, squeeze over the beans the juice of a lemon, and serve.

String Beans, Country Style (Harder’s Practical Cookery 1885)    History

Prepare the Beans . . . then put them in a saucepan with a piece of butter. Add some fine chopped parsley and chives. Sprinkle them with flour. Toss them over and add some broth. Let them simmer for half an hour, and when the moisture is nearly reduced, add a glass of milk, into which dilute the yolks of two raw eggs. Mix all well together and serve with pieces of slice fat pork cooked separately.

String Beans with Onions (What to Eat 1863)    History

Put two ounce of butter in a stewpan and set it on the fire; when hot, put in it two onions cut in slices and fry them. Then add salt, pepper, a pinch of grated nutmeg, a saltspoonful of chopped parsley, and a quart of beans cooked in waters; also half a pint of boiling water; boil ten minutes, stir with a wooden spoon, take from the fire, sprinkle in it a few drops of vinegar, and serve.

Yard Bean (Southern Agriculturist 1831)    History

I send you a few yard beans (as I call them, having forgotten the Spanish name) they are an excellent esculent and prolific snap bean,--which I have propagated from two or three seeds. They were given to me about five years ago, by a gentleman from South-America. I had them cooked, and those of my friends who tasted of them found them a delicacy . . . . The plant climbs upon poles, and bears from the spring until frost; it is well worth cultivating;--it is a light food. When the beans are gathered too young they are apt to be tough; they can be cooked either with bacon, or boiled and eaten with butter sauce, oil and vinegar, or in whatever mode you may choose.

Salad of String Beans (Philadelphia Cook Book 1886)    History

Trim one pint of very young beans, put them in a saucepan, cover with boiling water, add a teaspoonful of salt and boil thirty minutes. When done, drain and throw them into cold water until very cold, then dry them with a soft towel, cut each bean in four pieces lengthwise, arrange them neatly on a salad-dish, cover them with French dressing, let stand one hour, and serve.

Mazagan Beans (The Virginia House-wife 1837)    History

This is the smallest and most delicate species of the Windosr bean. Gather them in the morning, when they are full-grown, but quite young, and do not shell them till you are going to dress them. Put them into boiling water, have a small bit of middling (flitch,) of bacon, well boiled, take the skin off, cover it with bread crumbs, and toast it; lay this in the middle of the dish, drain all the water from the beans, put a little butter with them, and pour them round the bacon. When the large Windsor beans are used it is best to put them into boiling water until the skins will slip off, and then make them into a puree as directed for directed for turnips—they are very coarse when plainly dressed.

To boil Windsor Beans (Mrs. Hale’s New Cook Book)    History

When young, freshly gathered and well dressed, these beans, even with many persons accustomed to a luxurious table, are a favorite accompaniment to a dish of streaked bacon, or delicate pickled pork. Shell them only just before they are wanted, then wash, drain, and throw them into boiling water, salted as for peas. When they are quite tender, pour them into a hot cullender, drain them thoroughly, and sent them to table quickly, with a tureen of parsley and butter, or with plain melted butter, when it is preferred. A boiled cheek of bacon, trimmed free of any blackened parts, may be dished over the beans, upon occasion. From 20 to 30 minutes; less when very young. Obs.—When the skin of the beans appear winkled, they will generally be found sufficiently tend to serve, but they should be tasted to ascertain that they are so.

Windsor Beans a la Westphalienne (Franco-American Cookery Book 1885    History

Take three quarts of large Windsor-beans, boil in salted water until the skin comes off, drain, cool, and peel; cut half a pound of raw ham in small squares, fry light brown with a little butter, besprinkle with an ounce of flour, dilute with half a pint of rhine wine and a little broth, season with pepper and a bunch of parsley with savory; let simmer half an hour, add the beans, boil a little longer until the beans are done, remove the parsley, and serve.

Fricasseed Windsor Beans (American Domestic Cookery 1826)    History

When grown large, but not mealy, boil, blanch, and lay them in a white sauce ready hot: just heat t hem through in it, and serve. If any are not of fine green, do not use them for this dish.