Drew’s Dandy: An extraordinary northern bean

by | Apr 18, 2023

Our Crop Climate project aims to investigate beans that might thrive in Canada’s largely northern climate with its short growing season. We have found one that fits the bill! Drew’s Dandy hails from the Carrot River area of east central Saskatchewan. Carrot River is about 140 km east of Prince Albert Saskatchewan. The climate is unambiguously northern, cold and continental. Growing Degree Days are measure of warmth and length of the growing season (see for map and explanation for Canada at https://climateatlas.ca/map/canada/dd5_baseline#). Carrot River has only 1400-1500 Growing Degree Days. For comparison southern Ontario has 2000 or more, the southern Maritimes 1700 or more and coastal BC 2000-2500. Timmins in northern Ontario has about the same number as Carrot River. Best of all Drew’s Dandy provides not only green snap beans, it also ripens into dry white beans.

Drew’s Dandy is a common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) variety that grows into a short erect bush. It typically reaches about 40 cm (16”) tall ranging 30-50 cm (12-20”). Bushes start producing white flowers in about 35-40 days after sowing and pods in about 45-50 days. The green pods are straight to moderately curved and flat with curved tips. Pods average about 12-13 cm (about 5”) long (range 11-15 cm = 4-6”) and are about 1.4 cm (1/2”) wide. They turn pale beige at a maturity which takes about 70-90 days. Because the plants are short, pods may touch the ground at full size.

Each pod contains 4-5 seeds (range 3-6), and many pods in my plants were not filled, some seeds
missing or aborted. The seeds are thin and white, slightly kidney shaped in outline with the attachment scar area somewhat depressed (Figure 1). The scar is white and the scar edge often moderately ridged. Seed size varies widely with the length 1.1-1.4 cm, height 0.7-1.0 cm (mostly about 0.9 cm) and width 0.3-0.4cm.

Figure 1. Flattened white bean seeds of Drew’s Dandy bush bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). Photo Richard Hebda.

I grew my Drew’s Dandy in a fully open slightly south-facing raised bed with the row of beans oriented east-west. Other bean varieties grew adjacent to it about 60-70cm to the north and south such that the intervening space was fully covered by mature bean plants. This arrangement makes weed control easy. The soil was well enriched in compost and sprinkled with dolomite lime. Sprouting seeds were spaced 7.5-10 cm (3-4”) apart (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Drew’s Dandy bush bean in two leaf-stage June 30, 16 days after sowing Saanich Peninsula, BC.  Photo July 2 Richard Hebda.

I sowed June 14, and the first shoots emerged only 6 days later, on June 22. The plant grew quickly with first stem leaves showing on July 2 (Figure 2). Shortly after, on July 9th, the first buds appeared developing into the first white flowers on the 18th of July, 34 days after sowing. Full size edible pods had formed by July 30th, 46 days after sowing, and mature pods were visible by August 7th while the plants were fully green. Leaves began to yellow on August 11 th at the same time that most pods had reached maturity but were not yet dry. Pods began to dry on August 16th with all pods dry by August 24 (Figure 3). I picked them and dried them on August 31, but the plants could have been pulled and pods allowed to dry on August 24, a remarkably short 72 days from sowing!

Yield was 0.30kg dry beans in 3.5 m of row or 0.086kg per metre a relatively low yield, but very early compared to other varieties of dried beans even the early variety Aura from Poland (see this web site).

Figure 3. Drew’s Dandy bush bean turned yellow compared to La Pinta (foreground) and Coco de Paimpol (on left). Pods have begun to dry from June 14 sowing. August 23. 2022 Saanich, B.C. Photo Richard Hebda.

According to the Heritage Harvest Seeds website the source of the seed grown in our trial in 2022 the flat green pods are tasty and ready in about 55 days after planting. When dry these white seeds can be used for baked bean dishes and in soups. The website notes the variety to be productive, though in our trials this was not the case. I will trial it again in 2023 and see how the yields compare from an earlier sowing. In any case this is one dry bean to try where your growing season is short.