Last Autumn local artist in handmade paper Julie Taylor gave me about a dozen beans of “Cherokee Trail of Tears.” The name refers to the forced relocation of the Cherokee nation from their native lands in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Alabama to the Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) between 1836 and 1839. Naturally enough the incoming settlers wanted their valuable farming land, and also the gold thought to be present there.
The story goes that these beans were carried in pockets during the forced march, and planted in their new home. Whether or not this is a romanticised tale the continued growing of this heirloom variety is a reminder of the shallow commercial values that actually drive politics, and how that rides rough-shod over ordinary people. This alone would be reason enough to grow it. However this climbing bean turns out to be a vigorous grower and prolific cropper.
The beans can be eaten green although they are a inclined to have a bit of a string which modern varieties have lost. If left to mature on the plant the pods turn the most attractive maroon colour and once they start to dry they have beautiful black beans.
I had also planted “Cobra” which provided more than enough green beans for us to eat and freeze so after a few pickings I left the rest of the Trail of Tears to mature for drying. I’ve picked the first bagful and shelled them. I’ll let them dry on newspaper for a few weeks before putting them in a jar ready for a black bean stew. This bowlful came from only a few handfuls of the pods so I’m sure I’ll have a large jarful for the winter. I also have a white drying bean “Spanga Bianco” and Borlotto “Lingue di Fuoco” to harvest so we should be looking forward to a regular bean feast.