It is always with a sense of pride and achievement that I watch Mud and the Mudlets sit down to a meal which includes some home grown produce. From something as simple as lettuce leaves in a sandwich, to a more involved recipe such as deep fried, spicy battered courgettes (zucchini), the feeling is the same.
Of course certain crops outstay their welcome quicker than others: more courgette anyone? The girls aren’t over keen on them at all, unless, that is, they are the deep fried ones mentioned earlier, or grated/thinly sliced, raw in a salad. Mangetout and baby carrots, not forgetting tomatoes, strawberries and cucumbers, however, are among those that are always greeted enthusiastically and as for sweet corn ….. I doubt it is even possible to grow too much sweet corn!
Climbing french (or pole) and runner beans are also firm favourites, although they can quickly reach glut proportions if I forget myself and plant too many of them. This year I have been careful and there are only 9 runner bean and 7 pole bean plants in the garden but these plants are special, well most of them are. All of the runner bean plants and 3 of the pole beans have been grown from saved seed!!!
Of course getting the saved seed to germinate was my first milestone and the runners did it with ease. The pole beans on the other hand, proved a little more difficult, with only 5 seedlings emerging, off which only 3 looked strong and healthy. With my mind firmly on producing healthy beans and, ultimately, seed for next year, I discarded the stunted seedlings and planted the three strong ones out. The variety of pole bean I’m growing is ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ and it is proving to be quite a slow growing variety in terms of climbing ability, in my experience and the runner bean is Czar which, in stark contrast, happily romped away.
Getting the seed to germinate and the resulting seedlings to grow, was one thing but the real test would be if the plants were viable and would produce decent sized, tasty bean pods. Once again, it was the runner beans that answered this question first, with pods setting fairly quickly after the first flowers opened.
The wait for the pole beans though, seemed interminable! Every day I would check for flowers and every day I’d return to the house disappointed and wondering if these three saved seed plants were going to prove beanless, although all was not completely lost, as I had sown some of the original seed left over from my Real Seeds order from last year and had 4 seedlings waiting to join their saved seed cousins. Disheartened, i stopped checking for flowers and concentrated on other jobs.
Then one day, just under two weeks ago, I popped out to the vegetable patch for something else and as I was walking back along the raised beds, I spied a flash of pinky purple against the blue fence. A quick change of course and to my delight, I found that in my absence, half a dozen flowers had formed and opened and dozens more were forming across the three plants! I guess the old adage ‘a watched pot never boils’ is as appropriate for gardens as it is for anything else.
Mind you, in a very Mudlike glass half empty approach, I didn’t celebrate for long and reminded myself that flowers were only part of the story and that true success would only be achieved if and when beans were actually being picked from the plants ……..
…… and yesterday was the day. Last nights meal included a decent number and size of runner beans, as well as the first 8 pole beans, from my saved seed plants (as well as more mangetout) and so I can now proclaim that last years saved bean seed has been a success.
I think I’ve been living with Mud too long because you notice I’ve said ‘a success’ and not ‘a roaring success‘ ……. well, I don’t know how many beans the plants will produce yet ………