Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Real Witsa Bean

Witsa, Pole/Snap, 2021 – This is the REAL Witsa. I will start off by saying that most of the beans being sold out there as Witsa are not Witsa. There is not a second bean coincidentally named Witsa either. They are entirely the wrong bean which has been misnamed. There is a garble of information and much crisscrossing of misinformation attending some of these listings. Adding to the confusion is that most are listed as a Runner bean, but this is a Common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris. This may be a cultural difference by country in which they mean a Runner bean to be a Pole bean, not P. coccineus as we know a Runner bean to be. 

The true Witsa bean is a South African bean developed in 1951 from a cross between Green Savage and St. Louis Perfection. It is a very long, tender podded, STRINGLESS!! bean with good disease resistance and outstanding productivity. I suspect it failed to take off commercially because it is so very tender and would not hold up well to shipping and commercial processing. The other bean being sold out there is a shorter, flat-podded bean. It may be a nice bean itself, but it is not Witsa. 

The most accurate and detailed information on its history can be found here in a PDF image of an old South African market bulletin from June 1966:

As a home gardener who loves to can and put up lots of good food for my family for the winter, Witsa is a dream. This bean will not waste space in your garden or your time in the kitchen! The pods average 8 inches long, with 9-10 seeds per pod. They remain super tender and go through a puffy stage as the seeds fill out in the pod. The dry pods are so tender they are easy to shell and crumble in your hands. The plants are vigorous climbers and the blooms are white. It is one of the most productive beans I’ve seen to date. It had an initial large flush around 65 days from planting, the vines remained disease-free and healthy, and it gave me a second large flush in late September. It kept going right up until our season ended.

The true Witsa has pods that are as long as the diameter of this disposable plate!
It is the longest podded bean that I have grown.

It has an unremarkable white seed.

I acquired seed for this bean in 2014 from a California bean collector named Marshall Smyth, but I didn’t end up growing it out until 2018. I had only a few seeds and got poor germination, so with just a couple of plants I mostly focused on increasing the seed and didn’t pay it much attention to assess its qualities at the time. I had a good dozen or more plants come up from the newer seed this year. We ate so well from this bean! And I have a good supply of 2021 seed for it now.

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