B is for Boisterous

The blooming bush beans are boisterous. That’s today’s good news from my vegetable garden. The not-so-good news? The weeds, too, are boisterous.

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Clearly, I have done an excellent job of keeping the soil fertile, aerated, and suitably watered. Plants of all pedigrees, refined and dodgy, are keen to move in, grow, and multiply. And they have.

My problem is that I insist on believing the bush beans I planted have exclusive rights to the area I allotted for them. This belief is not shared by the hordes of purslane, morning glory, black nightshade, dandelion, pigweed, and quackgrass that have crashed the garden party. I tried to hold a black tie and tails event, and it’s been overrun by riffraff in jeans and sneakers.

My carefully served up toasted brioche rounds with crème fraîche and caviar, the fruits de mer, and the pâté with white truffles are vanishing down the maws of the uninvited. I’m trying to be a good host, trying to tolerate the jostling crowds, and be oh-so politically correct, but my polite smile grows ever more brittle. (The bush beans abandoned civility long ago.)

No. That’s it. No more hoi polloi. This party needs a bouncer. It’s time to act.

As dawn breaks, I trade my black tie for a silver trowel, and exchange my stiff upper lip for stubborn determination. One by one, I doggedly remove the intruders. Time passes. The sun climbs higher. The compost pile expands. Finally, the riffraff have been escorted off the premises.

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Now the beans luxuriate in their newfound, airy accommodation, and I relax with a glass of what’s left of the bubbly. Both I and the bush beans know the reprieve is temporary, but it’s still worth celebrating.

Cheers!

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P.S. – for the youngsters of the household, I present my video, Letter B and the Secret Window:

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A Beginning

The main harvest is underway. It has begun. Non-gardeners may be surprised by this. They won’t associate July with major harvest and storage of garden produce. Isn’t that for the fall of the year, they wonder. After all, that’s when Thanksgiving Day happens.

Thanksgiving, that notorious celebration of eating too much despite knowing better, marks the end of all the reaping and storing of crops. We rejoice as the final crops – late-ripeners like pumpkins and corn – come to their conclusions. However, through the summer, there are many earlier crops that must be picked, processed and hoarded for winter feasting. For example, here’s how I deal with the bush beans as they come ready.

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Bush beans, as their name implies, grow low to the ground, and the harvester (that’s me) must scrunch down, ooch along between the rows, scoop aside foliage, and try not to break off any delicate stems or leaves. Royal Burgundy, the variety of beans I grow, are dark purple, and they love to hide under leaves and behind stems. The trick is to find all the beans that are ready to pick. That’s all the beans that are ready to pick. Good luck. There’s often at least one that plays hide-and-seek better than I and escapes detection, for now. Later, much later, I will stumble across it during another bout of picking. By then, it will be smugly mature, fibrous, seedy, and entirely undesirable.

Once I have found all the findable beans, I carry my bucket o’beans to the kitchen, dump the beans into a cleaned sink, fill it with water, and rinse them. I snap the stem end off of each bean – each of the zillion-trillion-bazillion beans it takes to fill the bucket. If you were to stop by my kitchen at this point, dear reader, we might chat.

 

Too bad you have to work, you say.
Work? Maybe it’s work, maybe it isn’t, I answer. It suits me fine.
What? You can’t possibly like doing such a tedious job.
And why not? It’s not every day a fellow can snap the stem ends off a jolly lot of beans.
Gosh, you do make it look interesting. Why don’t you let me snap a few?
Mm, I’d like to, I really would. Honest. But it has to be done in a particular way. Not everyone has the knack – not one in a thousand, maybe not one in two thousand can do it right.
I’ll be careful. Just let me try. Here, I’ll give you half my apple.
Oh, all ri… No. No, I can’t. It won’t do.
All my apple. You can have all of it.
Well, I hate to, but seeing as you want it so much…

 

Yes, you really should stop by for a chat.

Once the stems are off, I gather the beans into bundles, and cut them into inch lengths.

Half-way there… Next step is the blanching of the beans.

Using my biggest pot, 2/3 filled with water brought to a boil, I put a modest layer of cut beans into the bottom of the pot’s liner basket, and plunge the beans into the roiling water. They will turn green, as is the nature of these ephemerally-purple beans. On goes the lid, the water re-establishes its boil, and I set the timer for three minutes.

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Getting closer. While the beans blanch, I fill a well-scrubbed sink with clean, cold water. When the timer sounds, I whip the basket out of the boiling water – taking care not to drip any of the scalding liquid on any exposed skin – and plunge the beans into the cold water. While this first batch of beans cools, I re-use the basket to give the next layer of beans the spa treatment.

Not done yet. I scoop the beans out of the cold water, drain them on a well-cleaned draining board, and lay them out on cookie sheets. Next, I place these laden trays in the freezer compartment of my refrigerator to fast-freeze.

Hours later, I take out the trays of frozen beans, scoop them loose, and bundle them into freezer bags. With a short length of straw, I suck out excess air before notching the last of the seal on each bag. Now they will take up residence in the big chest freezer downstairs.

BeansBaggedVictory!

But only the beginning. So far, I have frozen 4 bags of beans. Last year, I put up 18½ bags, and there were none left over when the garden began to produce this season. As the title says, it’s a beginning. That means there will be many opportunities for you and your friends to make trades for turns snapping beans. Bring something to barter – a kite, a few tadpoles, drawing chalk, coloured glass, an apple, or whatever is your favourite treasure. I’ll hate to concede my place at the sink, but, if you bargain well, the result will surely be a triumph.