Soon there will be space in the garden for another bed of climbing beans. The weather has been warm and very wet , which seems to be, ‘bean weather’ – the Purple King Climbing Beans are now two-thirds of the way up their trellis. I have thought about trying Lazy Housewife Bean again – but despite the catalogues seductive promise of ‘delicious flavour and heavy bearing over a long period of time’ – Madam has failed to deliver over the last three summers. Operating on the ‘three strikes and your out’ principle I feel that it is time to try another variety.
I have a copy of the Eden Seeds Catalogue which I have cherished since 2006. Seed catalogues are my guilty pleasure (blushing as I type). Eden Seeds are on the web and their site is easy to use – but the web is no substitute for my old tatty paper catalogue. I love sitting with a coffee reading the descriptions of all the fabulous varieties, the strange shapes, interesting colours and promise of plenty. The Lab Lab Bean, Kentucky Wonder or Molley’s Zebra Bean “saved by Molley Mollison”, visions of the long succession of gardeners who have grown and saved these seeds fills my soul with wonder.
I’ve settled on ‘Epicure’ quoting from the catalogue “Fleshy, flat green pod to 18cm, long harvest period, popular home garden variety. In 1929 L H Brunning says “The most delicately flavoured…” Eaten young they are tender and practically stringless”. I’m sold!
I sometimes select seeds in the same way that I, try each year to, select a winning horse for the Melbourne Cup – yes you guessed it – do I like your name? I would like to tell you that my extensive record keeping holds valuable data that allows me to pick a winning variety – this would be a flat out furphy . I’ve been thinking about the philosopher Epicurus a lot recently and the name caught my eye – bingo – we have a winner.
I re-read and watched ‘The consolations of philisophy’ by Alain de Botton recently – specifically the section on the philosopher Epicurus and his community called ‘The Garden’. Epicurus suggested that in order to be happy a person needed friendship, self-sufficiency and time for reflection. He and his followers worked, thought and spend a lot of their time tending a vegetable garden in order to find happiness.
I’ve been wondering what Epicurus would make of our back fence and modern urban living. Given that he didn’t like urban living in Athens in 306 BC I can’t imagine that modern Melbourne would take his fancy.
So reflecting on which of the experiments I will try in the New Year to connect my garden to my community and inspired by Epicurus I’m going to try setting up the Veggie Gardening Coffee Club in a local cafe or gardening centre. I’m hoping that by advertising an informal opportunity to discuss veggie gardening, varieties that are growing well in our local area and maybe swapping surplus seeds I can connect with other growers.
Maybe a coffee club would not be to Epicurus’ taste either – but I’m absolutely certain that he would have loved sharing a jug of water in my garden while swapping seed catalogues.