The Green Beans of October
Discourse of the Late Garden
By Annette Gagliardi
I was in my garden today – the 12th of October. I haven’t been in the garden for two weeks because of the rain, and having to work last weekend. Anyway, I wanted to spend some time communing with Mother Nature. I find that gardening provides me with pleasant surprises, inspiration, and hope.
I have been getting tomatoes frequently from the garden. The cherry tomatoes produce newly red ones daily. But the cucumbers and green beans take more than a quick look and grab. Beans hide amongst the vines. In October, I find that there are more vines than in July or August.
When September begins, the Morning Glories are blooming. Invariably they travel up the green bean vines, mixing and mingling to create a quiet riot of green with blue, purple and (this year) white blossoms. By October, the Morning Glories have simply taken over. The vines bubble over the fence and trellis to create a ponytail of vines. They wander over the tomato and cucumber plants like visiting relatives. I even find Morning Glories wound around the bird feeders and escaped the confines of our garden to travel about the neighbor’s Hyacinth tree.
The garden smells differently in October. It is a riper, richer smell. It is the smell of fruit past its prime -- of over-ripeness, of life lived and almost done. Mix in the smell of wet leaves fermenting after a few days rain, and you have a composting smell. The kind of smell my father always said was “honest”. Yes; it's an honest smell--the smell of real earth and vegetation without artificial chemicals and perfumes.
I spy a caterpillar lazily munching the parsley I planned to pick for our supper salad. Perhaps I’ll wait a day. I pull carrots from one row and leave the caterpillar to munch his way around the garden.
I work my way along the bean vines. A plentitude of Morning Glory vines are intertwined. The leaves of the bean vines stick to my jacket, my hair and my hands. They cling and leave an itch where they have caressed my skin. I notice that the leaves cling more in October than during the earlier months. They seem to be saying, “Stay awhile. What’s your hurry?” It does take longer to find the beans, so I do stay.
I lift the clutch of vines to look for beans. I find long lumpy pods, tan with age and wrinkled beyond the tender stage. Then, there! I spy a batch to new beans and gather the four into a pile. Now below, I find one small wizen pod and gather it, too into my hand. It feels dry and fragile like the paper-thin skin on the hand of my 90-year-old grandma. I find an odd bean here and there – each one a prize, each one a promise. Slowly my pile of beans enlarges to an amount I will be able to use for supper. Not too many, perhaps just enough.
These beans, these green beans of October, are different. They are tougher, more stringy and more voluptuous than earlier beans. The beans inside these longer pods are larger. I often shuck long lumpy pods and put the full sized beans into a salad or stew. The skin is light green, yellow or a fair tan instead of the intense green of earlier in the season. I like the variety of colors that suggest a variety of textures and tastes to be sampled. There is a rich, full taste to them. Like they have been around; and I imagine that I am eating wisdom with each mouthful.
I love the first fruits of summer and the bounty of late July and August. However, the green beans of October are among the season’s final delights. They remind me of the fruits at life’s end --that older and wiser has its rewards, and the treasures still to be found at the end of life’s season.