Sunday, March 18, 2012

Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit! 1001;52 (or thereabouts)

March 18, 2012:  Dad always planted potatoes on St. Patrick's Day, down in Southern Illinois.  This week in SouthEast Michigan, to commemorate the Spring Planting Itch that is surely in my blood, I pulled out the dried beans that had wintered (on the ground or on the trellises) in my garden, and shucked them.   (Alternate Persona Linguist's Note:"Shuck" is such a great word, so flora-specific.) Love it.)  Most of the beans, of course, I ate last summer, when they were nicely green, fresh, and succulent.  But Old don't make these babies Bad, just Different.  If they don't get picked in their youth, they transmutate into seeds for next year's crop.  And into alternate, dried  food.  So I gathered up the survivors, and shucked 'em and checked 'em.

I was impressed.

As you can see, the Kentucky Wonder Beans (little brown ones) look ready to roll.  Their much bigger and dramatis brethren are Scarlett Runner Beans.  Pink and black and big all over, my my my.   Last year was the first time I planted them.  And wow.  They grow like Jack in the Beanstalk Beans: overnight.  They have pretty red flowers all over themselves.  They grew to the top of my pergola and beyond, thereby entering themselves into Favored For Cheap Summer Neighbor Shut-Out category.  

And God are they Lovely.

Its a shame to put them back into the ground, they're so pretty.  But that's what I'll probably do with at least some of them, in a week or two.  With the weather so warm so early, I'll probably stagger the plantings and do a few now, a few later, in case Mother Nature indulges in a flirtatious little freeze before March leaves us.

But the Really Cool Revelation I had when holding them in my hot little hands this week was that they would make excellent dried beans.  The kind I could keep in a nice mason jar on my counter to look at all next winter.  And eat.  I'm forming an Apocalypse Gardening Egregrium (ok, I made that last word up so the acronym could be A.G.E., but it works), and the 4 people who compose it have been told that they can exhcange food with each other in seasonal increments.  (Or duck / chicken eggs, if we get Cindy in on the mix.)  So it is essential we have a variety of foods, with varying maturity dates, not to mention protein rich foods, as we get our Egregrium on its maiden feet this spring.  Right now, Scarlett Runner Beans are my projected contribution to variety/ protein. 

As my bean lust grows, I've been purveying the beautiful (and free) catalog of Seed Savers Exchange, overwhelmed by the variety of dry bean seeds they are offering (and by the very existence of SSE). Scarlett Runner is among their number, so I'll stick with it this year.  Garden space is, alas, limited, as all addicted gardners lament.  We can only grow so much.  Ahhh, but we can dream.  (Note:  run to your computer, google the Seed Savers Exchange, and experience the illumination therein.  People Do Care About the Planet.)

While checking out the SSE catalog and drooling, I also came across a little beauty called Jobs Tears, which is a marginally edible plant whose dried seeds have a little hole in the middle, and thereby are natural beads--like in necklaces? And  YES I'M GETTING SOME!!! I will become the creator of Jobs Tears necklaces by next winter, if all goes well.  My other non-edible ergo functional plant alumni include the lovely sponge gourd which I was semi-successful with last year (they are actual stiff sponges, which could scrub the paint off my Honda [what doesn't, these days, its a 2003]; and my snake gourds which make really cool rainsticks (percussion instruments, which some of my musical friends politely "hm" at when I make percussion with them). 

So, I'll let you know about the mason jar full of beautiful pink and black beans by next winter.  Likewise the natural bead business.  They have to be planted, grow, bloom, produce, and dry before then, but I have faith.

I could try mustard seeds, come to think of it.