Sunday, 31 July 2011

Borlotti Beans (31 JUL 2011)

A while ago, a small child visited with her mother.
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 :








 


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22 comments:

thesproutlingwrites said...

I love your bean story. As a child we grew them in a glass jar, with the seed between damp card and the glass so you could see everything from the very first bit of root emerging. It was great!

Anita Kumar said...

Your borlotti beans are very pretty. I am not familiar with these. I wonder how you cook them usually.

b-a-g said...

Thanks Sproutling - I'm tempted to do that experiment myself

Thanks Anita - This year I just boiled them and ate them plain so I could taste them properly. If I had more beans I would like to make this Italian-style recipe :
http://tastefood.info/fresh-stewed-borlotti-beans/

Alistair said...

Interesting introduction to the berlotti bean for a novice like myself. My first memory of growing anything at school was cress on a sheet of blotting paper.

Janet/Plantaliscious said...

What a lovely post. Beans are one of my favourite things to grow, partly because of the way they unfurl, partly because you get repeat crops on the same plant, and of course, for the taste. I really must try borlotti next year, so pretty. And there is something magical about savouring small quantities of things you have grown yourself.

b-a-g said...

Alastair - I remember that you mentioned experimenting with veg-growing this year. I'm looking forward to seeing your produce.

Thanks Janet - I'm glad you visited today - I didn't know about the repeat crops. Luckily, I haven't thrown the bean plants away yet. Maybe I shall be able to make a fresh borlotti bean italian stew after all.

Bridget said...

I have grown Borlotti Beans in the past but not this year. I however did'nt pod them, I harvested them young and ate pods as well.

gardenwalkgardentalk.com said...

I too enjoyed the bean story, but I guess not as much as that snail.

Christine @ the Gardening Blog said...

I really enjoyed this post! You are so right - I too came to gardening late in life and I'm so glad I did. It has given me a whole new lease on life.

Stacy said...

My mom always had a big vegetable garden when I was little, and beans were my favorite thing to help her plant--the seeds are so nice and big and kind of shiny, and they go so deeply into all that soft dirt. Your borlottis are beautiful in all their different phases! I don't quite mean that childish wonder is wasted on the young, but in a way it's nicer to experience it when you're old enough to appreciate it fully.

HolleyGarden said...

I loved seeing the bean grow up and mature! What a wonderful thing that teacher has done. I agree that the things we grow ourselves we are most thankful for.

b-a-g said...

Bridget - It was a dilemma choosing when to pick the beans. I was tempted to leave them for longer to get big beans, but then I had to sacrifice the shells.

Donna - I didn't mention the sn*il deliberately. I thought people reading this blog may have had enough of the "wildlife" in my garden.

Christine & Stacy - Gardening is rejuvenating but not so good for the wrinkles.

Masha said...

Great story and wonderfully illustrated! I wonder if I can find some here...

b-a-g said...

Thanks Holly & Masha - I recommend this vegetable. It gives quick results, doesn't require any skill, looks pretty, tastes delicious and can't be found in the shops.

Linnie W said...

I love your point about discovering the miraculous bean late in life. There is much we can see in child-like ways. Makes it all better, in my experience.

PatioPatch said...

As schoolchildren we germinated beans on blotting paper to learn about root systems. This is a magical story b-a-g and even though it does not end in plenitude, it tugs at the strings of your green fingered enthusiasm. My only advice would be to deepen the compost in the pot next year.

b-a-g said...

Thanks Linnie - I hope my approach is child-like rather than childish.

Thanks Laura - I'll remember your tip next time and top-up the compost.

Patty said...

I was able to find these beans at the grocers once. Beautiful pink and white beans, I just wanted to look at them. My disappointment was in discovering that the colours disappeared with cooking. The beans were delicious with chard and shallots and lots of olive oil though.

One said...

Interesting story and comments. We usually grow green beans in school. They are thrown away after they sprout.

Reluctantly swallowed? Why? Too few? We learn to appreciate abundantly when we don't have beans growing abundantly.

b-a-g said...

Patty - Thanks for the recipe. So far all the pods I have picked had green beans inside.

Thanks One - Reluctantly swallowed - because I didn't want to lose them to my digestive system.

debsgarden said...

I enjoyed seeing the progress of your beans. I am glad you have discovered the wonder of gardening. It has enriched my own life and made me think more than a little about the Creator.
I have been privileged to teach inner city kids about plants via a program at a local botanical garden, and yes, we sent them home with their newly planted bean seeds!

b-a-g said...

Thanks Deb. Your teaching program is a brilliant idea. I'm sure that young gardeners will grow up into decent citizens.

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