Monday, 19 February 2018

Hello Old Bean

For the first time, I have grown climbing beans, as opposed to dwarf beans. For a while, my climbing beans were entirely focused on climbing and not at all on beaning - despite producing masses of pretty red flowers.

Luckily, I remembered my much loved Uncle Colin and his practice of walking past trees that weren't behaving, carrying an axe. He claimed that the trees in question invariably got down to the job of flourishing, after glimpsing him and his axe strolling about handle-in-hand.

I wasn't going to take an axe to a beanstalk, of course, and I understood that they would recognise I wasn't serious if I started brandishing one nearby. Instead, I stood within their hearing and talked threateningly about pulling out plants that called themselves beans but did not produce any. Sure enough, they all instantly started five-year-plan levels of bean production, (that is five-year-plan projections, rather than five-year-plan real outcomes, needless to say). As a result we now have to go out there daily and pick heap upon heap of the things.

Which is great, provided you keep on top of the job and never miss a day's harvest. But I let things slip last week when we went off to Sydney for a couple of days. While we were away, the beans devised a new way of being naughty, camouflaging themselves behind leaves and secretly growing very long and hugely fat and, I suspect, stringy:

I bet they hoped I wouldn't pick them or eat them, but little did they know I'd actually been waiting for just such a think to happen, so that I could try out this method. I didn't want to experiment with tender young vegetables but tough, fat, overgrown ones I thought should be ideal. As soon as I finish writing this, I'm going to the kitchen to start the slow process.

Meanwhile, my favourite story about beans comes from The Vegetarian Option, by Simon Hopkinson, which I mentioned the other day*. This is it:

Really it is a story not about beans but about the difference between English and French culture. While I admire care being taken about food - concern about where it comes from, how it is prepared et cetera - I am sufficiently Anglocenteric to think that weeping over the tails on very tiny beans is the sort of thing that only Johnny Foreigner would countenance. Perhaps the opportunity for our youth to avoid this kind of contamination by effete practices is enough on its own to justify Britain's decision to renounce its membership of the European Union, with all that that entails.

*The Vegetarian Option is a really good book and always comes in handy at this time of year. Last night, having a surfeit of tomatoes, I made its recipe for "baked stuffed tomatoes, Paella style"; the night before, I made its "Squash and tomato masala"; both were wonderful. No recipe I've tried from the book has ever turned out to be anything else.


  1. The secret of kid food is homogeneity. The ideal protein is boneless chicken breast or hamburger; the ideal starch mashed potatoes; the ideal vegetable probably peas. Failure to top and tail the beans meant that they were not perfect long cylinders.

    A young relative of mine used to object to the seeds inside beans. She would slice them the long way and extract the seeds. I trust that she has long outgrown the habit, but I haven't had dinner with her in years.

  2. My favourite book about children & food is Russell Hoban's Bread & Jam for Frances, in which Frances's little sister tries her hand at the odd string bean