Types of Beans: A Poor Man’s Jewels

The story of the common bean takes us all over the world. Here, a seed explorer shares types of beans and how they arrived on our plates.

| Fall 2014

My first and only personal meeting with the late Robert Lobitz happened on a frigid midwinter’s day in Minnesota. Robert lived in a small wooden house in Paynesville, and his passion in life was beans.

He made that evident the moment I entered his door. Robert was a frugal soul; his massive bean collection was stored in carefully trimmed and reconstructed cereal boxes. As Robert opened box after box of beans, a panoply of colors lay on the table before me.

He told me how he had been bitten by the bean-collecting bug as a young man; his passion embodied later that morning in a statement he made to me upon presenting a table full of diversity. Motioning as if to embrace the pile he said, “These, Joe, are a poor man’s jewels.”

A couple of years after I met Robert, he passed away. However, his generosity and passion live on. Impressed and amazed by the beans Robert had shared with me, I resolved myself to get them into permanent seed bank collections, and with other serious gardeners. Nowadays, many of the “one-of-a-kind varieties” that Robert selected are safely being maintained in national and international gene banks and with private collectors.

I have been blessed in my life to make the acquaintance with many people like Robert. There are bean collectors all over the world. Some do it for practical reasons — i.e., beans make up a substantial part of their diet, like the Guatemalan Highlanders. Others do it because they are awed by the humble bean’s diversity.

European Bean Collectors

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: August 4-5, 2018
Albany, OR

Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on natural health, organic gardening, real food and more!


Subscribe today

Heirloom GardenerCultivate your love of historic plant varieties and traditional recipes with a subscription to Heirloom Gardener magazine today!

Don’t miss a single issue of Heirloom Gardener. Published by the editors of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Heirloom Gardener provides decades of organic gardening experience from the most trusted voices in the field. Subscribe today and save as much as 38% off the newsstand price! Get one year (4 issues) for only $24.95!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube

Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265