Join The Hunt

Seed Savers Exchange needs your help! You may be the missing link in unearthing missing varieties.

Seed Savers Exchange has conducted in depth research about the varieties in John Withee’s collection. Unfortunately, as time goes by, it becomes harder and harder to recreate the past. While the Painted Jewels feature the stories we uncovered, in some cases we have exhausted our leads If you have information or leads about any of the varieties in this page, please contact our curators at

Bountiful Ester

The only information we have on this variety is a description; it is a dry bean with a bush habit. But who sent it to John Withee?


Small and mysterious, this late introduction to John Withee’s collection arrived at Seed Savers Exchange without a source or physical description. We do know that bean pie is a traditional dish made with navy beans. So, the name could reference how this variety was used. Do you have information to share about John Withee’s ‘Pie’ bean?

Did you know?

Seed Savers Exchange gathers, documents, and shares the stewardship histories, origins, and community ties associated with varieties in our collections. Today, approximately 20% of our collection of over 20,000 varieties is fully documented.

Tennessee Soup Bean

The name implies a state of origination, but no information on this variety’s origins were provided by John Withee. Are these beans really from Tennessee? Do they make good soup? Let Seed Savers Exchange know if you have information about the ‘Tennessee Soup Bean’!

New Haven Red

This bean was offered by John Withee in an early Heirloom Beans catalog, but when Seed Savers Exchange acquired the collection in 1981, ‘New Haven Red’ was missing. John described it as “[t]ruly an heirloom, having been grown in Connecticut as early as 1700. Though not [a common bean], I can maintain it here with a late frost, 120 days [to maturity in Lynnfield]. Small, irregular rusty pink seed...” Do you know the rest of story?

Friend Jane

A late contribution to John Withee’s collection, this variety may have been acquired from someone named Jane… maybe a friend of hers? Seed Savers Exchange would like to know. It has been described as a dry bean with a sprawling bush habit.

Did you know?

In 2016, Seed Savers Exchange digitized its collection of original donation documents which totaled 16,891 scanned pages.

Bob White

This bean shares its name with a ground-dwelling bird native to the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean, the Bobwhite Quail. Is the name a reference to this bean’s color, another version of the ‘Wild Goose’ story, or perhaps the name of a steward? How did this bean get its name, who named it, and where is it from?

Osborne & Clyde

This variety has an elusive history. There is some indication that it is connected to an early Seed Savers Exchange member from New Hampshire named Ernest Dana, but this information has so far gone unconfirmed.

Mrs. Warren

Wanted: A conversation with Mrs. Warren! Would also like to speak with Mr. Warren, Warren kids... or anyone with information about this bean. It has been described as a snap bean with a bush habit.


Missing: Origin information, physical description, donation date, and donor information for ‘Elsie’ bean. Is Elsie a who, a what or a where?


John Withee acquired this bush bean in the early 1970s. John Withee indicated in his writings that ‘Johnson’ was a synonym for soldier beans in Maine and New Hampshire. Is that the end of the story? Where did John acquire this variety?


John Withee always kept an eye out for beans he didn’t have and this is one he never found. In John’s Heirloom Beans catalog (circa 1979) he wrote about ‘Jewett’, “This heirloom pea bean has been on Wanigan’s wanted list for too long a time. Known as the fastest bean in New Hampshire, is it now extinct?”

Olympic Wild Goose

John Withee’s notes indicate that this variety came from the coast of Washington from one B. Olberg. John Withee was a fan of this pole bean as a dry bean and also stated “...numerous 4 [inch] green pods at shell stage are excellent cooked.”

Goose (Pelfrey)

This pole bean hails from Ohio. John Withee listed his source as “Pelfrey” and included in his physical description “flat, 6 [inch] green pods best when pink blush starts.” Help solve the Ohio/Pelfrey/Goose-Bean mystery!


John Withee received this variety from a Mrs. Grubbs of Arkansas. No physical description was provided. Seed Savers Exchange would like to document the story of this bean.

Did you know?

Common beans represent approximately 20% (nearly 5,000 accessions) of Seed Savers Exchange's Collection. John Withee’s donation represents approximately 18% (over 900 accessions) of those beans.

Marie Porter

Do you know a Marie Porter who grew her namesake beans? Seed Savers Exchange would love to document the story behind this variety! The origins of this variety are a complete mystery at present.

Auntie Joan

Who is Aunt Joan? John Withee acquired this pole bean in the late 1970s describing it as a recent addition to his collection that he had not yet grown. John cited his source: “Sharrenberg Vermont.” Could this possibly be a name or misspelled city?


John Withee obtained this variety from a Mrs. Burnham of Vermont and described it as a red horticultural bean that produced moderately streaked pods on 7’ poles. Does ‘Heath’ refer to a person, place, or thing?

Did you know?

In 2016, Seed Savers Exchange staff devoted more than 3,000 hours to researching the stories that make each accession in Seed Savers Exchange’s Collection unique.

Black Baynoti

No source information was provided for this variety. It has been described as a wax bean with bush habit. Have you heard of this bean?

Michigan Indian

John Withee stated this bush bean was acquired from a donor in Ohio. Donor name and the donor’s source were not provided. Let Seed Savers Exchange know if you are familiar with this variety!

Kitterman Bunch

This variety has been described as a dry bean with a bush habit, but Seed Savers Exchange would like to hear more about its history. Can you provide any leads?