She asked me if gardening was my job. No.
... if I wanted it to be my job. No.
Why ... ? this and Why ... ? that. I'd never met a child interested in gardening before.
She then explained that her teacher had given each member of the class a bean and a yoghurt pot filled with compost to take home. Why a bean I thought ? ... don't children only eat tinned baked beans?
When my borlotti beans germinated, I understood the teacher's choice.
Flowering plants are split into two groups, dicots (with two seed leaves eg. beans) and monocots (with one seed leaf eg. blades of grass). Each dicot seed contains two cotyledons and the beginnings of root & shoot. The cotyledons feed the growing embryo, turning into the first seed leaves, while the shoot grows into the subsequent, recognisable, true leaves. As borlotti beans are relatively large and germinate quickly, this process unfolds visibly, while you watch, within a few days. Dried beans to delicious, fresh beans within three months - I just added compost and water.
How different would my life have been if I had planted my first bean as a child instead of this year?
I would have certainly eaten more beans ... maybe it was for the best.
In a way, I'm glad that I discovered gardening later in life because I am now experiencing the kind of wonder that children feel, which has put an extra spring in my step, mentally at least.
My only gripe is that each plant produced at most six pods containing no more than five beans each, just enough for a side serving, leaving me wanting more. You can't buy fresh borlotti beans in British supermarkets, however broad beans in pods are available in the summer, one of the few items of farm produce which remain seasonal. I stand in front of the compartment filled with bumper packets of pods, buy-one-get-one-free, trying to estimate how many plants were required to make this possible and how many surplus packets will be thrown away at the end of the day.
In contrast, each bean produced in my garden was cooked to perfect tenderness, sucked, tentatively chewed, reluctantly swallowed and finally contemplated. The memory of my childhood, when we quickly gabbled grace before toying with school-dinners or hogging them down, depending on which day of the week it was, comes back to me. I've never said grace since but I feel it now.
Anyway, here is my borlotti bean story :