A reader wrote to me recently to ask about my family heirloom beans.
I guess I have been pretty remiss at posting about the kitchen garden in general. Not sure why that is. It’s almost as if, when I softened the focus last autumn, I gave myself permission to incorporate the whole Earth into the blog — and that’s made visits to this small, restful little spot figure less frequently into our interactions here.
But I really do want to return to blogging about the kitchen garden more often in the coming weeks and months. Not just because we’ll be leaving it soon (and I can barely type that without tearing up), but because it is the ground of my own daily interaction with Mother Nature. This is where it gets personal.
I pay more attention to the tiny changes here: the most insignificant creatures who show up to feast or mate or seek shelter capture my interest and take me out of myself and into the present moment. The weather matters more to me because I never forget the beloved roots that need rain, the leaves that need sun, the delicate blossoms that refuse to set fruit if the temperatures climb too high. When something is ripening, I’m the one who’s going to eat it. (Well, either me or F.)
All of this life is going on right outside my door. I’m so grateful.
Here’s an example.
These beans appear to me to be saying. “Hey, thanks for the homemade support and all. But if it’s all the same to you, we’ll just lean on each other.”
Obviously, the family heirloom is doing fine. Better than fine. It’s been thriving in this heat. That shot was taken a few weeks ago, and those carefully-crafted supports F. and I put together with biodegradable twine and branches found on the forest floor… yeah, they don’t seem to need them so much anymore. The mass of foliage is growing about two feet above the supports.
And because I’m not so anxious that I will accidentally render them extinct this year, we’ve been actually eating the beans much earlier in the season. Last year, with the entire living heritage down to exactly 25 seeds, I would not allow any of the earliest beans to be picked, but immediately reserved them for seed. This meant leaving them on the vines until the seeds were mature and the seed pods had begun to dry a bit in place.
Any bean-grower will tell you, the key to an abundant bean harvest is to pick early and pick often. The plants tend to keep producing much more abundantly and over a longer season if one is careful to keep them picked.
Now that I have jars of these seeds in storage at my sister’s and mother’s houses, as well as in my own fridge, I’m able to eat green beans going and coming, and appreciate their special and, to me, familiar and well-loved flavor. I’ve been eating these beans since I was a child, long before I learned that the seed had been passed down in the family through the generations, for over a hundred years, according to the oral tradition.
If you’d like a recap on the family heirloom seed and its saga of coming back from the brink last year, plus some beautiful meditative insights given to me while watching its restoration, here are the links to the relevant posts from the 2009 growing season. The dark links marked with a star are the posts I rank highly, as fine examples of my own writing and photography.
- heritage (the basic background story)
- tangle * (the original homemade supports — I just love this post!)
- cosmos feeling a little droopy today (the erratic weather’s effects on the crop)
- you need them both* (the mixed colors of the seed)
- beneath the canopy (the real underside – plus delicious recipe from F.’s home country)
- not jack’s beanstalk (on growing beans as a children’s garden project)
- a cord of three strands (the family part of family heirloom)
- yin & yang* (one of my best posts)
- the circle of life (deep thoughts about the seeds – a popular post)
- best 9 in ’09 (a recap of the 2009 season, family heirloom’s recovery celebrated)
Yes, I like to write about this bean!
If you’re new here, I hope these posts are a helpful primer about the kind of thing that goes on here at the blog. If you’ve already read all of that stuff — well, hey, I’m glad you’re still along for the ride, my friends. That means a lot to me.
In either case, I wish you a beautiful Monday!
Want more magical moments?