Clare County Review & Marion Press

Postcard from the Pines: Time to Think Garden

The seed catalogs started coming right on time with the new year. Their goal by putting juicy tomatoes and bright zinnias on the cover is to get us all excited to garden, even when the snow is swirling. By March we all know that our gardens are out there, calling us to make a plan from beneath their thinning blankets of snow. We’re all more than ready to plant by the “first available frost-free time”. That is later than we would all like here in Zones 3-4. That disclaimer of “when danger of frost has past” gives little comfort.
I put down my seed catalog long enough to flip through the Fern Files for some early spring garden prep tips. I found this which appeared in the Grand Rapids Press, exact date unknown, but probably sometime in the 1940’s. These beans were a staple in the Winterfield Twp garden of Neil and Ruth Nevins for years.
“Goose Crop” Bean- Wild Bird Provided Seed for Farmer’s Crop
Marion—Mr and Mrs Neil Nevins, farmers near here, grow a strain of cranberry beans that are not just ordinary cranberry beans. In fact, they even have their own name for them—goose crop beans. This comes from the unusual way the seed was obtained. The beans are grown in Neil and Ruth’s farm garden from seed whose origins rest with Mr. Nevins grandfather.
When ripe, the beans look like any other cranberry bean, a variety which long has been favored by coal miners in Pennsylvania. The beans are nutritious and contain a relatively large percentage of protein, which makes them a sustaining food for people who do hard work.
The Nevinses, however, like them even better before they become fully mature and dry, as most people use them. When used before full maturity is reached, they are like green or wax beans, and are plump and “deliciously tender.” They find maturing beans are “just right” for making succotash according to Ruth Nevins.
Goose Brought Seed
Farmer Nevins tells the following story of how the bean came into the family:
“Many years ago, when my father, John F. Nevins, was but a very small boy—he died last summer at the age of 86—his father shot a wild goose as it was flying northward one spring. This was in Gratiot Co.
“When the goose was dressed out, its’ crop was found to be completely filled with strange beans. The beans were removed from the bird’s crop and planted. Seed was saved each year from the harvest.
“So, ever since, we’ve called them goose crop beans.” –Fern Berry
Neil’s grandson, Bob Pifer brought us some goose crop beans a few years ago. He’d found a cash of them and thought the Gardener might like to give them a try, however their freshness was not assured. Sadly, the cream colored beans with the red striping did not germinate. We’d hoped to give them a try and see if they really are “deliciously tender”.
This year we garden in a new place in a garden plot which has not been worked in several years. We’ll be lucky to get in a row of green beans and some tomato plants, but we’ll be out there trying.

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