Heirloom Amish nettle bean
This bean came to me from my grandfather collection. Lots has been written about this bean and it’s tons of names, but that’s what happens when many cultures and different people all live the same thing.
But no one said it better.
William Woys Weaver
This is an old cutshort variety with two divergent histories. On the one hand‚ it was preserved among the Amish farmers of southeastern Pennsylvania under the name Gnuddelbuhn, which translates as a bean resembling a dropping (the literal translation of Gnuddel is “turd”). If it is this shape that provided the origin of the folk name, then indeed the bean does have the general appearance of rabbit droppings. Such is Amish humor. The Amish use the dry bean for rich stewy soups and similar dishes traditionally served at their Sunday gatherings; thus the bean fills an important culinary niche in their culture. But the bean also has an alternate history that is not connected with the Amish.
As early as 1802 Bernard M’Mahon of Philadelphia was selling this bean as the Corn Hill Bean. Other seedsmen are known to have listed it as the Corn Hill Pole Bean and Cornfield Pole Bean, sometimes even as the Red Cutshort, although it does not resemble the true red cutshort of the South. One of the distributors of this bean in the Upper South was the seed firm of J. Bolgiano & Sons of Baltimore, which offered it for sale during the I840s. The names connecting the bean with corn culture came from the Seneca and other Iroquois peoples. The Seneca of Oklahoma referred to it as the Corn Hill Bean, and it was so listed in F. W. Waugh’s study Iroquois Food and Food Preparation (1916). Seneca informants considered it one of their oldest bean varieties.
True to its old name, the bean is ideal for corn hills, especially for the shorter varieties of corn that are about 5 to 6 feet tall. It is also a late-season bean‚ requiring 90 days to ripen on the vine-early September for Pennsylvania. The flower is white and the pods bumpy and short, which is typical of cutshorts. The pods range in length from 3 to 4 inches, with 4 to 5 seeds per pod — very prolific by any measure. The dry bean is drab purple-gray‚ marked with garnet speckles. The helium is reddish brown.