What with the drought and everything, the beans have been slow coming in this year. But today, after a weekend away, I found my drought-stressed plants nevertheless in full swing.
I like picking beans, but it\’s a delicate task. The plants are fragile. The hairy heart-shaped leaves are as thin as batiste handkerchiefs. You brush against one and, unlike, say, a pepper leaf, it doesn\’t spring back, but stays looking crumpled and resentful. The stems are knobby and turgid, ready to break off in your hand at the merest tug. And the early beans grow low in the plant, so that you have to swish the foliage around to get to them.
I hate it that, when I\’m through picking, the entire patch is left looking harassed and upset. But bean plants are drama queens. I know that by tomorrow morning, revived by the dew, they will once again resemble a miniature jungle, the dark, impenetrable habitat of that fearsome predator, the daddy longlegs.
I pick my beans as young as I can get them, aiming for a maximum diameter of two-eighths of an inch. But in every basketful I find some that already show the swelling of early pregnancy, while others, pre-pubertal, are about as thick as one of Wolfie\’s whiskers. That means that after I wash them and snap them and give the stem ends to the chickens, my beans will–horrors!–cook to different levels of doneness. They would never pass muster in a green-bean-processing plant.
But my beans, some fat, some thin, all born from seeds that I personally pushed into the ground with my planting stick, melt in the mouth and taste like the food of the gods even to people like me, who don\’t really like green beans.