Monday, May 6, 2013

The Magical Fruit

Stop it. I know what you're thinking. I'm sure some of you are tittering right now, remembering the humorous rhyme about beans that we all chanted as kids. I was taught it by my grandpa. I've heard two forms of it, one referring to beans as the "magical fruit" and  the other as "musical fruit," but I'm focusing on their real magic this week. You know, the Jack and the Beanstalk kind of magic--that awe-inspiring ability of pole beans to grow to great heights in a matter of days and put food on the table. Giants are optional.

I've been thinking a lot lately about growing more of our own food here. I've been influenced to this thinking by watching Alys Fowler's BBC series, "The Edible Garden," and Carol Klein's "Grow Your Own" (also from BBC). In fact, it was by watching them that I actually began to believe that I might be able to feed Turfman and myself mostly from the veg garden. With my courage fortified last week by them and Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I was off to my home library to consult the two books I have on Florida gardening. I really wanted to learn what grows best here in the summer. That's when my eyes fell on the mention of beans.

Lima Bean "Christmas"
Shortly after that, I was on the computer, furiously typing in the web address for Seed Savers Exchange again. I was focused first on putting a packet of the Christmas Lima Bean in my online shopping basket. I grew them last year and was amazed by how prolific and lovely they were. I had created a bamboo pole teepee for them, and they absolutely smothered it. It looked like they were participating in a popular pastime at my college, in which one young male would yell "FUMBLE!" down the hall of the dorm, and every guy on that floor would tackle and pile onto the unsuspecting victim walking in front of the instigator. In no time, the beans had toppled the teepee. I wanted more of that kind of bean magic. And, as always happens when I'm on the Seed Savers site, I also wanted quite a bit more: Lazy Housewife (love the name), Purple Pod Pole (I'm a sucker for alliteration), Bountiful (for what the name promises). I also added in a packet of Shirofumi soy beans, Marconi red pepper, and Emerald Green melon. If things go according to plan, I doubt people will want to come over for dinner. There will be basically one thing on the menu.

All of the beans but Bountiful are pole varieties. In preparation for those lovely little packets of protein, I began thinking of what kind of support I could give them. I wove arches made of dried willow last year. That didn't work out as well as I had hoped. We just don't have access to a lot of freshly cut willow, and the dried obviously does not bend well. They worked well enough to support the beans, and it was great fun to walk through the arches, picking beans along as the hung inside. But I wanted arches that were little more sturdy this time. And they had to be something that I could easily assemble and disassemble. I presented this little problem to Turfman. We puzzled together for a while, and then he set off to the local hardware store. He returned with 10' pvc poles and 45° joints, and then we tried to come up with a solution. And here's the final product.

Bring on the beans!

I simply cut some of the poles into 5' sections and others into 2.5' sections. I used no glue, simply pressed the 45° joints over the ends of the pvc sections to join them. To keep them steady inside the planter beds, I used metal straps from the electrical department. Then I used twine to further strengthen the structure and give the beans a latticework to climb. It's not perfectly symmetrical, I realize, but hopefully in a month they'll be so overtaken with vines laden with beans that no one will see them. I think they look fine now anyway, though, and they are plenty sturdy. Now it's just a matter of waiting for those little seeds to start their magic. If only they grew as quickly as the ones Jack had. If we keep getting good rain like we did this past week, they might do just that.

We had an incredible amount of rain last week. In fact, yesterday was the first day in a week when it did not rain. That made gardening difficult, especially during the periods when it seemed like we were in the middle of a tropical storm, but the plants absolutely loved it. So I have to show you how they responded to the good, long drink.

My Don Juan rose putting on a show

The front beds are overflowing!

The first of my favorite flower, the Daisy, has opened

And the zucchini continues to grow. I considered using a leaf as an umbrella during one of the downpours. 

The mammoth zucchini

Now all that's left for me to do is wait for those beans (okay, and a whole lot of gardening in between). I suspect each time I walk into the veg patch, a neighbor might just be able to hear me chanting a familiar rhyme over and over to myself. "Beans, beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat..." Well, you know the rest.


  1. How wonderful! That's a serious garden right there! I'm a bit jealous - we planted beans last fall, but then Hurricane Sandy drowned them. I look forward to seeing those supports covered in bean vines!

    1. From your lips to God's ears, Dana! I hope my arches are just laden with beans! (And I hope no hurricanes come our way...yikes.)

  2. Beans are also good for your heart, you know!
    Totally distracted by the Purple Pod Pole - I might have to plant some to go with my Purple Thai Rice!

    1. Did you look up the Purple Pod Pole on It's quite lovely. Yes, I know they're good for the heart...I've heard that rhyme, too!

  3. Another wonderful post, Dr. G! By the way, I have been staring the Don Juan rose for the past 5 or 10 minutes. Such a beauty!

    1. He is a beauty! I feel like taking my copy of the Norton Anthology out to read Byron's "Don Juan" to him! Alas, I haven't the time...