by David Cecelski
A rather grizzled old gentleman at my local farmers market had the loveliest October beans this morning. October beans, which are also called “fall beans” or “speckled beans,” are an assortment of old heirloom shell beans that usually ripen between the end of summer and the first frost.
I still can’t get used to how beautiful these are. The shells have long speckled strands of brilliant pink, and a few are colored a solid dark pink. The shelled beans are lovely, too. They’re a lustrous pearl white and speckled with pink.
My favorite way to cook them is the most traditional way, the way I’ve had them in the Appalachian foothills, where I’ve seen October beans most often: I shell the beans when they’re fresh and tender, not dried. I season them with a slice of fatback or ham hock, slow-cook them with chopped onion, and add salt and pepper to taste. I often add a sprig of fresh sage, too.
I cook them on a low boil, until they’re creamy and beginning to fall apart. Served in their broth and with a side of cornbread for dipping, they’re just exquisite. They have an earthy, almost chestnut-like flavor, as complex, deep, and particular to where they’re grown as vintage wines, really the stuff of dreams.
Nantahala Farm & Garden
Topton, NC 28781
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Julie Robbins says
Getting ready to plant some October Beans now! Eagar to see how this goes. – Julie, Randolph County – NC 5-8-18
I am from Georgia. I know speckled butter beans and speckled beans but have never heard of October beans. Thank you can’t wait to get some!
Judi Paul says
Our absolute favorite dry bean! My husband and I have been growing them for about 10 years now. I recently lost my husband last year and with all this virus stuff going around, I have been limited to seed buying. I have some beans harvested from last year and tried sprouting 10 to see if they were viable. All 10 sprouted. So I planted from last years harvest. Hoping they produce true. Judi, Parrottsville, TN 5-7-20
Im 58yrs old and when i was growing up till my grandfather got sick around my 15th birthday we had a garden it was around a half acre or a tad more we lived n the cit so that was a good size garden we had a big frezzer so we froze a whole lot and also gave a bunch 2 family and friends October beans wss the most delicious bean ive eve ate there awsome but i never ate any after the garden was gone. i was n a bad car wreck n 2012 and i had it amputated below my knee n 2012 the reason why is that the pain was unbearable id pay u well if u could ship me fresh October beans in season so it would be next year 2021 id greatly appreciate this.
Nelle Farinelli says
I shed a tear at your describing how you prepare October beans because that’s how my mother cooked them and I’ve been wanting to find some to make.
Having a terrible time finding seed to plant 😞
Bill Gibson, II says
I cooked October Beans this afternoon, with chicken broth, chopped sweet onion and seasoning ham & fat. I did this on the stove top and it took a little over an hour and a half, to get the dried beans to a tender state. Once done, their texture and flavor reminded me of a Pinto or maybe a Kidney bean. In the end, I took out the flavoring meat, and blended the beans into a “refried bean” texture and flavor much like the refried beans from Taco Bell. I would use Southwestern seasonings & flavorings such as cilantro, sour cream, jalapenos, diced tomatoes, shredded cheese and sweet onion, hot sauce.
I grew up with Oct beans- plentiful locally in NC and also on the canned shelf in grocery stores and then, they just weren’t available at farm stands or canned in Alabama I planted in a raised bed in North Alabama this year. The seed package came with about 15 seeds looking shiny and firm for about 4 dollars. The plants are doing well on a simple trellis and an atypical regular rain. Can hardly wait to see the results!