by Abra Brynne, Executive Director
I gathered my second harvest of dry beans the other day, when we had a long enough break from autumn rains to dry down the pods. It was a welcome exercise that followed an earlier and larger harvest. It was during my first harvest that I took note of the bean pods not yet ready and still others far from harvestable. This obligation to return to complete the harvest once, perhaps twice, is nature’s way of ensuring that there will always be food and seeds, of fostering food security. Large monocultures and machine harvesting do not lend themselves to this kind of repeated harvest. Nevertheless these staggered harvests are a vital part of biodiversity being preserved by peasant, small-scale farmers, and gardeners around the world. Staggered harvests help to preserve the genetic variability of our seed supply and promote a diversity that ensures that there will always be some that can withstand the challenges of poor weather, pests, disease and deleted harvests.
Each spring I gather up my precious cache of bean seeds and plant as many as I can make space for. The colourful pods and harvested beans are a joy to grow and demand little of me over the course of the season, beyond a high trellis up which they climb. My beans have storied names, like Annie Jackson, named after the woman who brought her beans from Russia to southern Manitoba, bringing the taste of home with her across the ocean. My other favourite bean is also from that part of the world, a heritage Doukhobor bean for which I have never been able to find a tall enough bean pole. It always reminds me of the children’s tale, Jack and the Beanstalk, except the gold is in the precious, nutritious beans that I harvest each September. These beans have been grown out for so many years in the Kootenays that they are perfectly adapted to our short seasons. Each September, the leaves turn yellow and fall away, leaving gorgeous striated pods to more easily dry down on the exposed vines in the sun
I grow drying beans on my small urban lot because they are nutrient dense sources of protein that I can produce myself. What do you grow that nourishes your body and soul and brings you joy?