I am not sure what it is with me and beans but they seem to have an almost mystical appeal, from the green sliced runners of childhood to the dried brown or black beans of nomadic people. Maybe it is because it is a seed eaten as seed. Maybe because they are a staple of food cultures I revere from the Middle East to Mexico. Maybe it is because the Cherokee Trail of Tears the Seed Ambassadors gave us as one of our first crops come with an unbelievable fertility and a heartbreaking tale. Maybe it is just because they are one of my favourite things to eat and grow.
We sowed Aquadulce Claudia on Sunday as an overwintering crop, a hopeful message in a bottle cast into choppy, wintry seas. We will add Crimson Flowered to them in spring. We often eat broad beans straight from the pod; at most, at home, lightly steamed, lightly dressed with good oil.
We grow Trail of Tears, blue Blauhilde, buttery Gold of Bacao, beautiful borlotto in summer, also field beans as green manure in winter, though not this year. I think part of the appeal lies in their ancient appearance, as though they have been found in a pharoah’s tomb. Fresh, in or out of the pod, or dried for protein for poor people without access to much fish and meat, there is an unassuming purity about them.
It is also that for growers they are givers not takers, fixing nitrate rather than exhausting land, returning dozens of pods for one seed: such good value. Do you, too, have crops that have a hold on you? If so, please share.
22 10 2012
(photos Howard Sooley)