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Heirloom Cranberry Bean Seed from Wal-Mart?

June 24, 2019

I was recently buying some groceries at Wal-Mart when I came across one pound bags of cranberry beans for 92 cents U.S.  Cranberry beans are a kind-of pinto looking bean, only the markings are a distinctive cranberry red with some of the beans being almost solid red. 

I like to experiment with different types of heirloom plants, and I had actually looked at cranberry beans on an heirloom seed website.  The website was selling their cranberry beans for $3.00 U.S. for 40 beans.  This seemed a little rich for my taste so I took a pass on them.  And here I am now looking at a pound of cranberry beans for 92 cents.  Now 40 beans this size weigh just a hair less than one ounce (28 grams), so a one pound bag should contain around 640 beans.  That means my $3.00 dollars will buy me 40 beans from the website or 1920 beans from Wal-Mart, so I figured, “What the heck, I’ll give it a try.”  I remember when I was a kid, if my dad was going to plant black-eyed peas, he’d just buy a bag of peas at the grocery store and plant them. So I was hoping this would still work for me 60 years later.

There are a couple of things that could go wrong with this plan.  For one, the beans could be hybrids that would not reproduce true to type, or they could be genetically modified to produce sterile seeds that won’t germinate.  I reasoned that both of these scenarios were pretty unlikely.  I haven’t really ever heard of hybrid beans.  They may exist, but it seems that a little selective breeding over the years has made beans pretty much perfect, so what are the advantages of hybridizing them?  As for genetic modification with a terminator gene, I think that this is usually reserved for big money crops like corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans.  I don’t think cranberry beans are that big in the agri-biz world.  In fact, these at Wal-Mart are the first ones I’ve seen outside of a seed catalogue.  So, long story short, I think these are probably a genuine, non-hybrid, non-GMO, heirloom seed.  Time will definitely tell.

The second thing that could go wrong is that these beans may be pretty old which could lower their germination rate.  Unless seeds are properly stored; which is to say cold, dark, and dry; their germination rate will decrease each year until at some point it’s not worth the effort to plant them.  Another thing that could affect the germination is if the seeds have been exposed to high heat.  One advantage of buying from a reputable seed company is that the seed will, most likely, be fresh and properly stored to assure good germination.  But, as you can tell from the numbers above, premium seeds mean premium prices.

The only way to tell if the seed is going to germinate is to plant some and see if it germinates, and the only way to see if it is heirloom seed is to raise a crop and plant seed from it next year to see if it will produce another crop.  If it works I get a lifetime supply of cranberry beans.  If it doesn’t work, I’m out 92 cents and a little labor.

So I took my Wal-Mart cranberry beans and planted 80 of them.  I planted them ¾” deep and about 6 to 8 inches apart in 2 rows that are about 8 inches apart.  I tamped the soil down over them, and watered them in.

The first beans started breaking ground on the 6th day after planting.  On the 9th day the beans were up and growing.  I had 67 beans that germinated.  If my math is right that’s a germination rate of about 84%.

This looks to be about the same as the pink-eyed purple hull peas (on the left below) that I planted from saved seed, and maybe a little better than the Kentucky wonder beans (on the right below) that I bought at the feed store.

So, the first hurdle has been cleared.  The beans germinated.  Now I need to see if they produce any beans.  I’ll up-date this post in a couple of months, and hopefully will include pictures of me picking cranberry beans.

  1. Ilene/Dennis permalink

    why not?

    On Mon, Jun 24, 2019 at 10:04 PM Sensible Survival wrote:

    > sensiblesurvival posted: “I was recently buying some groceries at Wal-Mart > when I came across one pound bags of cranberry beans for 92 cents U.S. > Cranberry beans are a kind-of pinto looking bean, only the markings are a > distinctive cranberry red with some of the beans being almos” >

  2. D.A. permalink

    Love your site. You have good sensible advice…. so the name sure does fit.

  3. I have never eaten cranberry beans. As you mentioned, $.92 cents is not much money to spend to see if I like them.

  4. Kimberly permalink

    Were you ever able to bring up a future crop that would also germinate from the seeds of this crop? Or was this a one-shot crop?

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