These past few weeks the (green) beans have been coming in nonstop. Their vines are so tall they climb all the way up their trellises that tower above our heads and then reach out to the sky seeking to go ever higher but instead with nothing else to grab onto fall down and curl back onto themselves. Spiders have built webs up there amongst the beans that are hidden in the tangled masses of tendrils.
Beans hang high and low on the vines. They are pale yellow, green, and deep purple in color.
The judión beans that cover the arbor near the entrance of the bean quadrant conceal a little Bean (3 and a half years old) and their caretaker, West, who pick the large sun dried brown pods of Spanish butter beans in the shade. The flowers on the outside of these plants are a striking white and bright red-orange against the deep green leaves of the bean stems and leaves that are so tightly woven you cannot see inside. The judiones provide a temporary shelter that will come down in the Fall, when we will once again be able to see across the garden.
The judión beans growing on the plants with the white flowers are white, and the ones growing on the plants with red flowers are purple with white spots. Helen received the judión seeds from a friend and thought they would all be white. The purple beans are a mystery.
Helen says Bean shelled all the dry beans last year. Bean was watching a video one day not too long ago in August of themself shelling beans in the greenhouse the year before at 2 years old. You can hear the Fall rain hitting the greenhouse roof in the video. Bean smiled as they watched the clip, and said: “when can we do that again?” And now, it is time to do that again. It is so beautiful that everyone can play a part in tending the garden and feeding the community.
One of the first things I got to do when I started as an intern here was build a trellis for the beans. At that time, they were just a few inches tall, starting to reach up out of the ground. Byrd and I had thrown a ball of twine back and forth over the tops of the A-framed trellises made out of rebar and bamboo and looped it under the bottom horizontal beams to create a structure for the beans to climb up on. We wound the baby plants’ vines up the twine, trusting their tendrils would find their way up the rest of the trellis. This was back in early July, when you could still see through some of the bean quadrant.
Now, picking beans is a coveted job in the garden. Standing amongst these giants one feels so hidden amongst the dense foliage that you cannot help but find serene solitude there. Searching amongst the leaves for the hiding beans feels simultaneously like a game and like a ceremony.
Just a few days ago, I picked some beans from the fully grown plants in the early Fall sun and made green bean soup. I used some other ingredients picked fresh from the garden (green onions, garlic, purple potatoes), and from the pantry. This soup is one of my favorites, a soup I first tried in Mexico a decade ago at a restaurant called La Habichuela (“the Green Bean”). West joined me for a bowl. After cooking and blending all of the ingredients, the purples, deep greens, and yellows gave way to a pale green color.
Soon Helen will start letting the yellow and purple beans turn brown on the vine to save their seed for next year. Perhaps baby Bean will shell those too.