We will start picking beans tomorrow. the climbing french beans in the glasshouse have wowed us all with their mauve flowers and their stature, and now their speckled fruit are pencil-thick and ripe for the eating. They should be followed stringlessly by the dwarf french beans in the Entrance Field come August, so we’ll be beanfeasting throughout the summer, then stop and leave the remainder to dry on the vine, to be used as a high protein pulse throughout the next year. All peas and beans can be grown on to pulses, but we don’t tend to do it so much in this country – either in the garden or commercially – but I believe in a more sensible, sensitive world we would do.
The plan was to concentrate on the flat-podded “Helda” beans under glass, but in the event I managed to rot them by over-zealous soaking of the seed, so “Cherokee Trail of Tears” became our main cultivar. It is fast growing, fast maturing, pretty and productive, and has its own story to tell.
In 1829, gold was found in Georgia, Southwest USA, under Cherokee homeland. This prompted the Georgia gold rush, and moves by the government to “relocate” the Cherokee people to reservations in the “Indian Territory” (now Oklahoma). An army of 7,000 rounded up 13,000 Cherokees into concentration camps, destroyed their homes, then forced them to march the 1,000 miles through the freezing winter of 1838.
By the time they arrived, 4,000 of their number had died, of disease, starvation, cold and the occasional murder as they passed inhospitable settlements. The black seeded bean was carried with them on this trail of tears, planted as the bitter winter thawed to spring on the reservation, and still grown by Cherokees, and other gardeners interested in “heritage” seeds, to this day.
I see the beanstalks growing in the glasshouse , tiny pods pushing out from the shrivelling violet blooms, and see them as living sculptures, symbolising the cruel destructive side to White/ Western/ Judeao-Christian culture; and also the spirit of hope and renewal represented by nature and nature-worshipping peoples