Bert Deane’s Baking Bean

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In the early 1950s, Stephen Deane of Wayne, Maine inherited 2, five-gallon milk cans of ‘Bert Deane’s Baking Bean’ from his uncle, Phillips Herbert ‘Bert’ Deane of Leeds, Maine. Bert Deane (1866-1953) was not only a long time steward of this variety, growing and saving it for many years, he also originally developed it. ‘Bert Deane’s Baking Bean’ was the product of crossing a soldier bean, a white kidney bean and a yellow eye bean. After Stephen Deane received his uncle’s seed stock, he had high hopes of commercializing the variety. This dream never came to fruition as natural challenges from flood waters to deer, cows, and woodchucks prevented Stephen from producing enough seed to introduce the variety to commercial growers. Stephen even shared a story about well-intentioned neighbors that picked off the “old shriveled” pods in an attempt to clean up the garden, the pods that contained dry seeds and would have been next year's seed stock. Although he was never able to produce enough to commercialize the variety, he was able to share “these fine beans” with other gardeners. In 1977, he wrote to the “Bean Man,” John Withee, whom Stephen had read about in Yankee magazine. Stephen enticed John with promises of “the finest variety of large white baking beans that anyone around here had ever had.” This sort of information and the bean’s heirloom status clearly piqued John’s interest as this variety was soon added to the Heirloom Beans catalog where it was described as “a true heirloom.” Stephen Deane requested that the bean be named ‘Bert Deane’s Baking Bean’ in honor of his uncle’s plant breeding and preservation work.