The October beans and most of the Flagrano flageolets are in the freezer, but still my garden is full of beans. As I gather pale pods of black-and-white Yin Yangs, I am amazed at the generosity of the sturdy little plants. Certainly I expected a nice harvest when I planted them, but their giving nature takes me by surprise.
And it's not just the 'Yin-Yangs.' Looking around, I find a bounty of forgotten beans worth gathering: abandoned French Duet pole filet beans holding blue-black seeds, and a few Peking Black crowder peas that reseeded themselves in a back corner of the garden.
Some of my finds seem too beautiful to eat, for example the nickel-size seeds hidden inside the long, leathery pods of Emperor scarlet runner beans. I toss them in the soup anyway. As they simmer in the company of summer's last tomatoes and peppers, their meatiness will make them seem like little steaks on a spoon.
The petite green limas are so precious that we eat them like garden caviar, slowly and in small amounts. They take forever to grow and are equally slow to shell, but there is no doubt that they are worth it. Besides, the bumblebees love them.
The biggest and best beans get set aside for replanting, but still it feels extravagant to be eating hundreds and hundreds of seeds. Satisfying, too, in a way that cannot be felt unless one grows the beans. You give them a home, bring them water when they need it, and step in when foxtail and crabgrass threaten to take over the planting.
It is a partnership in which you must keep up your end of the deal, and now you can claim your prize. As you run your hand through a bowl of drying beans, they might as well be gold coins. But what is the prize – the beans themselves, or the feeling of wealth that comes with having them? Either way, bean season is worth savoring.