Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Greasy Back Beans

My life in appalachia greasy back beans

greasy back bean, greasy bean noun A crescent-shaped green bean with a shiny shell. Same as creaseback, turkey bean.
1996 Houk Foods & Recipes 47 Smoky Mountain horticulture includes a lengthy litany of legumes-creaseback, cutshort, cornfield beans, bunch beans, pink or peanut beans, greasy beans, sulfur beans, and half runners. 1997 Montgomery Coll. greasy back bean (Andrews).

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


Growing up Pap and Granny only grew Mountain White Half Runners. Granny grows at least one row of Peanut Beans these days. She likes them because since they only bear once she can pull up the plants, pick the beans, and then plant white half runners in their place.

For the last few years we’ve been growing a dandy variety of Mountain White Half Runners given to us by Kenneth Roper. The bean seed has been handed in the Nantahala area for generations and now it’s made it’s way to Brasstown and beyond thanks to the generosity of Kenneth.

Sow true seed greasy wnc market

Since Sow True Seed has been sponsoring our garden, we’ve tried other bean varieties. One we’ve become partial too is the Greasy, WNC Market bean offered by Sow True Seed. The beans are pretty-with not many spots and they are easy to string. You can see the shine in the photo above-the beans really do look like they’ve been ‘greased’ with a light coating of oil.

Folks in my area of Appalachia like growing white half runners, peanut beans, and greasy backs among other bean varieties.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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  • Reply
    Linda Campbell
    October 4, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    do you sell and mail greasy beans to places like memphis tn? I would be happy to give you our phone number and request yours

    • Reply
      October 5, 2020 at 6:14 am

      Linda-I’m sorry I don’t sell seeds. You can try Sow True Seed they usually have greasy beans and they are in Asheville NC. I order from them and they mail them to me. Here’s the link to their site:

  • Reply
    Stewart Colley
    August 10, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Where I’m from different families had their own strains of Greasy Bean which they jealously guarded. Unfortunately my family’s strain has been lost. I need some good beans to get started again.

  • Reply
    August 7, 2014 at 8:55 am

    I did enjoy growing my first greasy beans last year, thanks to Sow True Seeds and you, Tipper! This year, I planted two kinds of pole beans and haven’t picked the first bean yet. Such a peculiar year here, garden-wise! I’m very hopeful there will be some vegetables before Winter.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    August 2, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    Those white quadruple runners that Ken Roper provided the seed for are amazing. I only had two 45-ft rows, and they just wore me out. I didn’t keep careful track, but picked several bushels.
    Ken mentioned the tunnels his made one year. Next year, I intend to stay with my cane pole arrangement, but instead of leaning them against a single wire, I’ll have two wires separated by a couple of feet. The rows will be further apart, but I’ll be able to walk in the tunnel to pick. With the poles leaning in a bit, the beans mostly hang on the inside, so picking should not only be in the shade, but easier.
    The cane poles I used came from a friend, Jim Estes, who has a big patch on Deep Creek. I cut about half of the poles, but used a bunch that he’d already cut. The ones he’d cut I just used as they were. A couple were 12 ft long, and as Jim said, they shot up there in no time. I picked at least a bushel of beans perched on a step ladder. Next year I’ll keep most of the poles to reachable length from standing on the ground, but I’m going to see if I can’t get a couple of 15-20 ft long poles and see what happens.
    B. Ruth, I would also be interested if you do find White Princess beans. As Jim said, they were a short runner. I honestly don’t recall Daddy ever putting up anything for them to run on.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    August 2, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    We LOVE White Half Runners. A little stringy, but I am pretty good at getting the strings, so snapping the beans is usually my job. They are great tasting and tender.

  • Reply
    August 2, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    I am envious of you and your bean growing readers – that’s the other thing that didn’t do well in my garden this year – but these were bush beans – Wonder if you readers have preferences between pole beans and bush beans.
    You plucked a few heartstrings with yesterday’s post about aprons. So many wonderful memories were shared. I was especially taken with Ed Ammons’ poem – so much so that I copied it into my “collection” and plan to share it with relatives (credit given to Ed, of course!)

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    August 2, 2014 at 11:50 am

    I wish I could be there for Chitter and Chatter today, but I’m so tired from yesterday’s garden work, it hurts to point. I picked another bushel of White Runners, helped work ’em up, dug some taters, picked 60 ears of Silver Queen…cleaning 2 dozen, and finding 12 huge Red Brandywines. My friends from
    Cleveland came up and helped me.
    Last year, I lost all my beans to
    the water problem we had, but I
    had given a friend in Nantahala
    my bean seed earlier in the Fall,
    so he had so many up where he lives, Tommy Baldwin brought me
    2 garbage sacks full.
    My 3 rows are about 60 feet long
    with 5 stakes in each row. Wires
    at the top and bottom with twine
    to connect ’em. After the beans
    stick 2 feet out the top, I bend
    and wrap ’em around the top wire.
    I really don’t know how high they
    would go if left alone. One year
    I didn’t allow enough space from
    one row to the other, and they
    crossed over, holding hands with
    the adjacent row. My daughrers and granddaughters enjoyed playing in those tunnels…Ken

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 2, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Hope you can read thru my past comment with all the errors!
    Anyhow, I wanted to tell Jim that there is a half-runner that does more running like a pole bean that is a heirloom. Can’t remember the name right now. I would love to try Ken’s half runner…however, you don’t think that Ken was playin’ a joke on his old NC buddies, do you!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…Just sayin’

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 2, 2014 at 11:26 am

    and Jim…I have a call in to a friend of ours who sells heirloom beans. Hoping he might have your White Princess half runner or short runner bean seed. At this time he does not sell any bush type heirloom beans, however he may know where you can find it.
    We don’t always grow heirloom beans, but now-a-days, I consider the White half-runner almost an heirloom as my parents and grandparents grew the bean and I am now 73…Oh yeah!
    Through the years we have grown Turkey Craw, very tasty bean, given to us from a friend from Bulls Gap. Kentucky Wonder Pole beans and bush. White half-runners, planted them this year too. Roma green beans, a type of Italian bean that we just love! Planted them this year as well. Blue Lake bush and pole, planted them this year. Peanut bean, very good taste, but small bean and seems to take a bunch to make a forkful. Giant Speckled pole bean, big dark speckled bean that we shelled. Ford Hook Lima beans, love those babies, haven’t planted them in a long time.
    Dwarf Horticultural or what we always called Shellie Beans. We got our firs Shellie’s from Alabama mother-in-law. They have a red/beige shell when leathering up when beginning to dry. We then pick and shell them, package by themselves or mix with our green beans. When cooking the mix of shellies and green beans, lay a few pods of small Okra on top, do not cut into the cell. The okra picks up all the flavor of the streaked meat, onion, beans and shellies! So good! Of course, good old Crowder peas and field peas. However, I just hate them Red “waspers” (old red devils, that blow around the Crowder peas while you are trying to pick them! I just know I’ve means a variety or two we have given a try and continue to plant.
    I wanted to try the Cherokee Trail of Tears beans and the Tar Hell bean but didn’t get to.
    Tipper, is your greasy bean the North Carolina Long Greasy cut short? What I read it was a favorite of the Western North Carolina’s Farmers Market!
    If I’m able as well as the better half, I hope to grow more heirloom beans next year!
    Great Post Tipper,
    I love me some beans and cornbread, sliced maters, relish and onions…
    PS…I forgot one…One year we planted Pinto beans…My fingers just about fell off trying to get all of them shelled…I buy mine now-a-days! LOL

  • Reply
    August 2, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Sounds like there could be a singing bean party. I never realized how many different beans could be grown in one area, ones that could look alike but have a different name. This was quite interesting. I often purchase wax beans in a can – the white/light yellow ones.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    August 2, 2014 at 10:22 am

    I guess I’m ‘way behind times! I had not heard them called “Greasy Beans” until I read your post today. We called them “Creasebacks” in Choestoe where we grew this variety. Since it’s been several years since I’ve grown or gathered “Creasebacks,” I can’t say whether they looked “greasy” or not! Shiny, yes–but greasy? Only when cooked in some fatback! But for the white half-runners, they were our main-stay variety for fresh green beans for the table and for canning a 100 quarts or more to “do” us through the winter! And yes–why they were called “half-runners” when they climbed over cane-pole sticks set up in a teepee-type arrangement for them to climb up, and then spilled over these high poles, I’ll never know! But white half-runners continued to be the bean of choice for Choestoe gardens and patches! Happy eating!

  • Reply
    August 2, 2014 at 10:22 am

    I love talking gardening, and so I may ramble a bit. For many years my family has cherished the half runner (any kind), and we have always carried big pots to family gatherings and reunions. They had many advantages, as they had great taste, usually prolific, and did not seem to need any extra attention in the garden. As of late, I have changed over to a climber bean with no idea of its name. It is delicious and bears extremely well. The green bean grows a mix of pink on the end and yellow, but turns green when cooked. I was given a handful of seed a few years ago by a cousin who had nicknamed it a pink tip. Unlike the half runner it stays intact during the long Appalachian cooking process. Also intact when canned. We have so many wonderful Yankees mixed in our family now, that we have changed a few habits with our cooking and texture of beans–only at reunions. I hope all the Blind Pig family has a wonderful time harvesting and putting by that garden, as it sure will taste good when the snow starts blowing. I always celebrate first really cold day with pot of soup beans.

  • Reply
    August 2, 2014 at 9:19 am

    My sister and I were just saying exactly what Dee said about the White Half Runner Beans and their lack of taste. We season them with different kinds of meat and still can’t get much more flavor than what is found in a can of store bought beans. Could it be the GMO seeds causing the flavorless vegetables these days?
    My friend had several kinds of beans she called Greasy Beans. She called one Greasy Grit. It has a purple speckled seed that I didn’t care much for. The little short and full variety is my favorite. I think she called it White Greasy.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 2, 2014 at 7:21 am

    Tipper I’ve always heard them called Greasy Cut Shorts. I think it’s the same bean. It had more bean than shell where the half runners had more shell. If memory serves me I think the cut shorts dried better that the more fleshy half runners.
    Sow True has done a real service to us by preserving the seeds of our ancestors, and thank
    God for Ken and the people of Nantahala. They’ve been saving the seeds for generations.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 2, 2014 at 7:17 am

    Tipper–I also grow beans from seed provided by Ken Roper, but calling them half runners simply won’t cut it. I’m not sure how high they’ll grow, but Don has some in the garden in Bryson City which ran up a cane pole type support apparatus which tops on at probably 12 feet or so in no time at all. I fully believe that if the poles reached 20 feet the Nantahala runner beans (I’m going to leave the “half” out) would be out the top in short order.
    Mine aren’t nearly that tall, but they ran to the top of my wire/baling twine/post apparatus, out the wire, across to and adjacent row of corn, and beyond. I do believe that they are a first cousin of kudzu.
    On top of all that, they are mighty fine when it comes to eating and they are exceptionally prolific. I think so highly of them that I plan to offer several packets of seed (along with some from other seed I’ve been saving for years–crowder peas, tommytoes, Texas longhorn okra, and speckled butterbeans) as an auction item for an outdoor writers’ group to which I belong.
    Meanwhile, thanks to Ken and to the wise mountain folk who began saving these seed over a century ago.
    That does leave me with one burning question. For many years Daddy (and for a couple of decades yours truly) planted a short runner or half runner bean which went by the name White Princess. Then suddenly one year the local feed and seed store didn’t have them, and since we had always been able to buy seed so readily we hadn’t save them. If anyone knows where I could find White Princess seeds I’d be mightily obliged for the information.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee
    August 2, 2014 at 4:19 am

    My best friend’s fave green bean .- greasy beans . I had never even heard of them and I’m 12 yrs older – lol !! She drives all way from middle tenn to her hometown , Erwin Tn to buy her beans to can. We always had white half runners – but the ones I’ve bought last cpl of years either don’t taste the same or my taste buds have changed . I love peanut beans – wish we could have a garden!!

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