Calypso: a pretty and early dry bean

by | Apr 18, 2023

There are many attractive-looking dry beans to grow such as the beautiful red- or maroon-spotted  “Borlotti” or Cranberry types such as La Pinta and the gold hued red marked Tiger’s Eye (see articles on our site). I am particularly attracted to seeds that have black markings on a white background. The variety Calypso (also marketed as Orca) is one of these and is generally available to gardeners.  Better still it has a relatively short growing season for a drying bean.

Calypso is a small bush bean forming an erect plant about 45 cm (18”) tall. Pods are generally straight, narrow and 9-10 cm long and thin-skinned (Figure 1). They have a 1.0-1.5 cm (about ½”) straight to slightly curved pointed tip (Figure 1). Unlike many other varieties the tip can be somewhat flexible. There are usually 5-6 seeds per pod though some have as few as 2-3.

Figure 1. Dried pods of Calypso bean. Richard Hebda photo March, 2023.

Calypso beans are slightly kidney-shaped but small. They range from 1.0–1.4 cm (average 1.2= ½”) long. They are only 0.5 cm wide and 0.7 cm high. As described earlier the surface is speckled to blotched black on a white background (Figure 2) varying from nearly white to nearly black. The scar is tiny, white and slightly depressed.

Figure 2. Dried seeds of Calypso bean grown on Saanich Peninsula, Vancouver Island. Richard Hebda photo March, 2023.

On May 9, 2022, during a very damp cool spring on the Saanich Peninsula, my first sowing of two year old seeds failed with only a couple of sprouts. I can only assume the soil was too cool for this variety or the seed did not keep well. However, the second sowing of one year old seed on June 4 began to germinate normally by June 10. The young plants were growing well and had started to branch by July 1. A week later plants had reached 30 cm tall and developed secondary branches. Plants grew strongly through July and by July 29th buds had formed. On August 5 they were dense, erect and showed many white flowers. I did not water the planting during this fry period. Pods 3-5 cm long developed by August 12 at which time there were still many flowers. By August 18 many pods covered the bushes and there were only a few flowers. The following week pods began to yellow, so that by August 25th I pulled the bushes and let all pods finish drying in the field for about a week. Sowing to harvest accordingly took about 82-89 days a comparatively short growing seasons for a dry bean, and about a week longer than the extremely early Drew’s Dandy variety (See article on this website).

The yield was 0.38 kg (0.84 lb) in a 2.9 m row or about 0.13kg/m. This is relatively low yield but typical for small bush beans. You will need to plant about 5 m (16 feet) of row for a cooking size harvest.

According to some sources calypso beans can be marked by various colours from, brown, tan and most usually black. According to U.P. Hedrick’s Beans of New York (Part II of Volume 1 of Vegetables of New York) published in 1931, black splotchy beans were known in the late 1800’s (Figure 3). They were part of the yellow podded wax bean group. Their deeper origins may be in the Caribbean.

Figure 3. A black and white bean illustrated in U.P Hedrick’s Beans of New York (Part II of Volume 1 of Vegetables of New York) published in 1931.

Calypso beans are widely suitable to many uses from soups to mixtures with grains. I have yet to prepare and eat Calypso beans, not having grown enough of them. There are, however, many recipes available on the internet among them the following one posted by Fairmount Market at The beans are stewed in coconut milk in a slow cooker without pre-soaking. The recipe has many ingredients but is finished off with a tarka of ginger (ginger fried quickly in hot oil) and black mustard seeds. According to the posting roasted cauliflower and naan bread go well with these beans.

If you are looking for a pretty black and white bean that ripens early and has many uses, Calypso bean could be a really good choice.