Tanya’s Pink Pod: A British Columbia Island Original

by | Jul 7, 2023

Richard Hebda and Dan Jason

New bean varieties must arise somewhere. There are of course intentional crosses to improve characteristics such as productivity and disease resistance. Historically however bean varieties have arisen either by mutation of a common variety or by chance crosses between types in a field. For such chance crosses to occur there have to be several varieties being grown at close quarters. Then they must cross pollinate. Common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) are mostly self-fertile and their flowers will have been pollinated before the bees or other agents can enter the bloom and do their business.  Many bean varieties produce their flowers well bellow the canopy just above the point of branching, not so easy to access for typical pollinators.

A few years ago, a cross-pollination event must have occurred in fields of Salt Spring Seeds on Saltspring Island British Columbia (BC) (see https://www.saltspringseeds.com/). In 1988 Tanya, a farm apprentice recognized two robust and tall plants in a row of the dry bean variety Sequoia. These plants produced vibrant pink pods instead of the normal green ones. When a few pods were tasted. they were surprisingly sweet and juicy compared to the Sequoia ones. Folks on the farm were quite excited to try growing the seeds from the two plants to see if they would stay true. Amazingly enough, they did come true and have stayed so ever since!

Tanya’s Pink Pod is a robust bush bean with a sprawling habit. Beans grow erect to about 40 cm (16”) then begin to straggle about such that the stems reach 80-90 cm (32-36”) long. The bush has many branches. It bears pink bi-hued blooms with the upper portion darker than the lower (Figure 1). Pods are produced mostly along the lower and mid parts of the branches rather than the long trailers (Figure 2).

Figure 1. Bicoloured flower and pink buds of Tanya’s Pink Pod variety of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). Photo Richard Hebda, July 6 2023, Brentwood Bay, BC. 
Figure 2. Maturing pods of Tanya’s Pink Pod variety of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). Photo Richard Hebda July 29, 2022, Brentwood Bay BC. 

Pods are long and mostly straight to slightly curved. Their length ranges from 14-19cm (about 6-8”) mostly about 18 cm (about 7”) (Figure 2). The tip is 1-1.5 cm long, thick at the base and strongly curved when dry, sometimes almost forming a circle. As they grow the pods vary from pale to dark red or pink. Upon drying they turn a pale diffused pink to yellowish beige (Figure 3). Each pod contains from 3-5 seeds usually with one or two of them being aborted.

Figure 3. Dry mature pods of Tanya’s Pink Pod variety of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). Photo Richard Hebda, Saanich BC. 

Seeds are of a modest size and shaped like a kidney bean. They vary from 1.4-1.7 cm long (mainly 1.7) and are narrow (0.5 cm) and relatively high (0.9-1.0 cm) resulting in a slightly flattened outline. The bean’s edge forms a slight ridge. Beans are coloured pale pink beige and have a white scar which is outlined in a thin red line which develops into a dark beige zone (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Seeds of Tanya’s Pink Pod common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). Note the darkened zone around the attachment scar. Photo Richard Hebda, Saanich BC.

In 2022 I sowed Tanya’s pink on May 9. Many of the seeds were up by June 3, and all were up June 10.  Some of the first true leaves were chewed by insects. The first flower buds appeared by July 1 and many buds were set by July 8, with several flowers open. By July 21 red pods had formed on the lower branches and at the top of the plants (Figure 2). The plants were loaded with pods by July 29 and no flowers remained at the end of first week of August. Leaves began to yellow on August 12 and all plants had mostly yellowed by August 18. I pulled all the plants on August 25 when 90% of the pods were dry however 30% of the leaves were still green (Figure 5). The result was a seed-to-harvest interval of 104 days. The previous year the interval had been 106 days.

Figure 5. Tanya’s Pink Pod bean plants pulled to dry in trial field August 25, 2022. Photo Richard Hebda, Brentwood Bay, BC.

Two years of yield data demonstrate that though this is a robust plant, the yields are at best moderate. In 2022 a row 3.3 m long yielded only 0.48kg  =0.15kg/m of dry beans despite having no competition on either side and growing in full sun. The plants were not watered. Yield in 2021 was .23kg/ 1.3m of row or 0.18kg/row. The row had been watered regularly but had competition from bush beans on either side. Perhaps the relatively low yields are related to the incomplete seed filling of the long pods.   

These beans last a long time as snaps on the bushes. When steamed they turn green. Salt Spring Seed customers say this variety is the best tasting snap bean they have ever tried. Tanya’s is also a very good cooked dry bean that is perfect with just a little oil and salt.

Want to try a tasty BC original snap bean? Consider growing delicious Tanya’s Pink Pod variety in your garden. Seeds are available from on-line from Salt Spring Seeds at https://www.saltspringseeds.com/