Beans are probably one of the first seeds that children may grow at home or in the classroom. They sprout really quickly on a dampened cloth or paper. The miracle of life beginning unfolds dramatically in no time at all. One of the most amazing things about bean seeds is that you can recognize their variety when they are still seeds. With almost all other plants you cannot actually differentiate them until the plant grows and produces fruit or flowers.
Beans come in the most incredible array of colours, patterns and sizes. That they were chosen as the magic seed in the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk is not surprising to me at all. They have a magic quality to them that captivates me every time I crack open a pod to reveal them resting in their little chambers.Their womb-like shape holds a promise of life which I find thrilling.
Beans have enchanted me since the first time I grew a scarlet runner pole bean and was rewarded by their beautiful big seeds at harvest time. I was a painter then and did a whole series of paintings inspired by these amazing beans. They have since found their way into my textile designs as whole moving pods and stylized seed symbols. I think their presence in my art will always be with me.
This season I grew six varieties of beans but because we had a lot of rain this year it was a struggle for them to reach maturity here in the Kootenays. A bean ready for drying will separate inside their pods which will dry out and rattle when moved. I then pick them and dry them in their pods in baskets until they are crisp dry and ready to be shucked.
These are a beautiful pole bean which I grow every year from my own seeds. Even in this wet season they have done well. They are prolific, reliable and taste amazing fresh or dried (detail shown in above photo). If you look carefully you will notice that a few of them are a dark bean, a kind of reverse patterning of the mostly light coloured ones.
These beauties came from my father-in-law. They are a big ivory coloured Italian Roma bean. They taste meaty and delicious as a shelled bean but because of their size they seem to be having a hard time getting to the drying stage this season. I’ll try again next year and hope for a warmer drier summer.
A very light coloured kidney bean which grows as a bush bean and did quite well for me this summer. They tasted great as a green bean but I still look forward to tasting them as a dried bean. These are the red kidney beans I grew last year: Red Bean Harvest
Both the kidney bean and the black beans I purchased from Salt Spring Seeds. They have a fantastic variety of heirloom seeds and a great little booklet called “Saving Seeds“. Next year I look forward to trying more of their varieties as well as trading seeds with other growers in the Kootenays where I live.
For more on how I have used the image of the bean in my art please see my blog post on Total Art Soul here:
Beans in my garden inspire beans in my art.