Potomac Pole Bean
— The vines are vigorous, productive, grow nine feet or more in height, and have white flowers. 'Potomac' has a fairly straight, flat creaseback pods that hook on the end. The pods are nine to eleven inches in length, stringless, smooth, tender and delicious. Each pod contains seven to eight large, white, kidney-shaped seeds.
We were very excited to re-release this old variety in 2012. It is one that is connected to us with a bit of personal history. Back in 2004, we were contacted by bean variety conservationist and horticultural bibliophile named Mark Futterman, who at the onset of his end-of-life failing health, had the foresight to find homes for his life's work. (You can read more about the story and about his awesome donation to our horticultural library by clicking here.)Mark quickly contacted Gus, arranged a visit, and was able to acquire seeds. Mark was very excited about this discovery and was eager to share the bean with me in hopes that we would grow them out and reintroduce them to the gardening public.
Mark had searched for this variety for years. One day in 1988, while reading his local newspaper, he happened across an article about an elderly gardener named Gus W. Tompkins of El Sobrante, California. It went on to describe how Gus had received 'Potomac' seeds as part of a Victory Gardening offer from the Oakland [California] Tribune in 1941. Gus had been growing them ever since.
When I met with Mark he told me that 'Potomac' was, "the finest bean I have yet grown." Some years later, while reviewing his gardening notes, I found that he had backed up his statement by growing it out nearly every year since he obtained the seeds. 'Potomac' was bred and released by Associated Seed Growers, New Haven, Connecticut and was an "All-America Selection®" winner in 1943. It reportedly is resistant to common mosaic virus and some forms of rust. Each packet contains one ounce, which is about 52 seeds.
[Note: Mark told me that there is another pole bean circulating, with the same name, but has dark seeds and is of a poorer quality. After doing some investigation, it was discovered that the dark seeded variety is an old Virginia family heirloom that was introduced in 1990 by SESE and inadvertently given an already used bean variety name. As far as we know, we are the only source (2012) for the original, white-seeded 'Potomac' variety.
We have been growing 'Potomac' off and on since 2005 and since its re-release, we have heard nothing but praise. However, we did receive one report this year (2014) from a customer who found an off-type plant growing in their patch. We grow our seed in isolation and have not experienced this phenomenon personally, however I wanted to mention this as a heads-up. We will continue to monitor and clean up the variety as necessary.]