I requested seed from USDA ARS-Grin seedbank for Alabama #1 pole beans several months ago and planted a 20 foot long section of row. Mature dry beans produced so far should total about a pint which I will send to Glenn Drowns at Sandhill Preservation. They should be available on his site early next spring.
What is different about these beans? The seedbank beans match old descriptions of Alabama #1. They tend to be long season producers meaning you can pick edible beans for 8 to 12 weeks. This is longer than many modern beans that produce for 5 or 6 weeks. They are heavy producers with an abundance of beans per plant. I often compare with Rattlesnake as it is very productive in my climate. The USDA Alabama #1 beans could easily go toe to toe with Rattlesnake for production. They are good flavored snap beans either cooked fresh or put up by canning for winter. They are a moderate fiber bean meaning they have a good crisp snap but no long fibers in the bean. The strings are medium size which makes them easily pulled off. A huge advantage is that they appear to be somewhat repellent to insect pests. Very few of the beans I harvested showed pest feeding. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give them a solid 8.5 for the combination of disease and pest tolerance in a good flavored productive snap bean.
My grandfather has been growing green beans in his garden for probably upwards of 50 years now and while he always referred to them as “Alabama black beans” and said you couldn’t buy the seeds anywhere these days, some research has led me to believe what he grew may have been Alabama #1.
He recently passed and I am desperately trying to keep this variety alive both because my family loves them and because it meant so much to him that he was the only person he knew still growing them, but I have almost no gardening experience and am afraid I’ll let these die out.
I recognize your username from other forums and believe you’re very knowledgeable about this variety. I was curious if you could tell me if it seems like these beans are what you know to be Alabama #1? (I have more photos if needed, but I believe I’m limited to posting one image as a new user).
Also, because it seems that you’re interested in preserving this strain, I’d be happy to send you any of my own beans if you’d like them for any reason.
I’d be glad to get some of your beans, but perhaps more useful would be to get some to Glenn Drowns at Sandhill Preservation. Also useful would be to offer them here on the forum with the intent of getting people to grow them. The more people growing a variety, the more likely it will stay around for the future.
The beans you have are similar to but not the same as the Alabama #1 pole beans I’ve grown. This may just be a case of a variety that drifted genetically over a period of many years. In other words, yours may have started as Alabama #1 but are now a slightly different strain. The important thing is that they are good beans and worth preserving for the future.