Rare Seed Hunter Joseph Simcox and More Heirloom Beans

A few years ago, at the San Francisco Landscape Show, I visited a booth staged by an ethnobotanist named Joseph Simcox. www.explorewithjoseph.com  After talking with him for just a few minutes, I was struck with how unique this man is.  Joseph is a modern-day explorer who travels all over the world hunting for rare food producing plants and their seeds!  I pondered over all the varieties of beans he had on display, finally selecting the ones I wanted.  Joseph sold me a dozen beans of two varieties and he did not know their specific botanical names.

He also had his book, “A Poor Man’s Jewels”, on display.

Journal and Photos

Good thing I am in the habit of keeping journals and taking photos!  Although I kept up with my gardening the past few years, I did not plant the rare beans. Family crisis challenged my confidence so I kept them on a shelf thinking I would when I had more time.  Finally, this season I planted the Purple Amazon (Phaseolus v.) and the Orange Striped (Phaseolus v.) from Kenya.

Here is a better photo of the Purple Amazon beans.

Garden Plan

Every year I plot out a simple plan on graph paper and here’s where I planted each bean.  The beds are 20’ long and 4’ wide.



Planting the beans around two tomato cages, I went to my plot in the community garden every day for a few weeks to keep the soil moist as they sprouted and I was nervous.  Having bought the beans over two years ago, and who knows how long Joseph had them…would they even sprout?  Well, they did but the leaves were pale and a grasshopper invasion at night chipped away at them…so I thought I might lose both.

Chili Pepper and Wire to The Rescue

I marvel at perfect gardens.  Mine never is.  Maybe a part of mine is picture perfect or certain plants but then, there are messy areas and I always have a few plants that don’t look great or just fail. A metaphor for my life it seems.  Here you see, I tried an old garden trick to deter the munchers.  Red chili pepper and placed wire around to make the beans look ominous. I also applied a good rotted compost around the base of both rings of sprouts. Will it work?

Good-bye Grasshoppers; Hullo Healthy Vines!

Making progress!  Two weeks later and here they are! Woohoo.  I did not have any instructions as to the beans growing habits however.  The Orange Striped is the towering sky is the limit bean while the Purple Amazon is a tight, compact bushy vine.


Purple Amazon

Orange Striped

Now about two months after planting here they are the little beauties. Both beans are flowering and HULLO, there are bean pods on the Purple Amazon!  The Orange Striped is going to keep going upward and no bean pods yet but check out the delicate flowers.  I know that the harvested beans won’t be enough to cook but my goal was to grow the beans for another larger crop next season!  Will let you know how it goes.  We shall see.  Thank you for stopping by.










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