Kentucky Wonders have stood the test of time among avid home gardeners. Apparently this bean variety has been in the US since 1850. This is the bean that convinced me to plant some. Before that, I considered green beans a total waste of time. Thank you, Aunt Flossie, for re-educating me on all things beans. (See Aunt Flossie’s Country Green Bean recipe here.)
Although available now as a bush bean, the Kentucky Wonder bean is so large, it does better when growing up some sort of rigging. A dozen plants will keep you, your family, and several of your neighbors in beans from late Summer to the first hard frost. We usually get two months of harvest from these beans.
Kentucky Wonders are classified as stringless. In case you have not encountered a string in your bean, rest assured that the bean strings are impossible to chew up. So, being a “stringless” bean makes Kentucky Wonder an attractive choice for the garden.
My disclaimer is that many of my KW beans have had strings. The strings usually pull loose when I break the bean from its stem. A few other strings become apparent as I break the large pods into two or three sections for cooking. All in all, I have to say that those strings have not been a deal breaker for me.
It’s the intense flavor of the Kentucky Wonder that makes it a standout in the bean brigade. Those gardeners who swear by KW claim to have found no other bean that can match this one in bean flavor. Even with the longer cooking that is required for this heavy-podded bean, the magic flavor remains.
Kentucky Wonders are a hearty bean. They are heavy and dense. They require some long, slow cooking, after a bit of time braising. When the braising has accomplished the task of coating each bean with oil and seasoning, place a tight-fitting lid on the pot to keep the beans from drying out or scorching on the bottom. Add only as much liquid as necessary toward this end. The idea is to produce a pan of tender tasty beans, moist but not swimming in liquid.
Unless you pick your fresh beans every couple of days, you will end up with long pods bulging with beans that can grow to a pretty good size. Our favorite way to enjoy these beans is to pick and shell the beans while they are still young, tender and white. These beans get cooked in the pot along with the less developed green beans. The flavor and texture are both nice additions to a pot of green beans.
If you find yourself with scores of over-grown beans, let them continue until they dry on the vine and then shell out the treasure. These beans can be used like any dry bean and are especially good baked.
Kentucky Wonders are open pollinated and usually come true in the next season. Save seed from your longest, straightest beans. Beans in the next season will usually reflect their parent pods. Go for the best! See you in the garden!
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