Saturday, 23 November 2013

Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit...

While our mornings are still quite cool, the days are summer hot, hot, hot - fantastic garden weather.
Now, corn is a heavy feeder, and requires LOTS of nitrogen. For the organic gardener there are two ways to achieve this - fish heads, and beans. Traditionally, many Native American tribes buried fish heads, then planted the corn on top, and of course planting climbing beans with the corn was standard practice. The corn provides a pole for the beans to climb up, and the beans provide nitrogen to feed the corn.
Even though the beans are planted when the corn is around an inch high, they don't provide the nitrogen for quite a while. It is not the bean plant itself that produces the nitrogen, rather a specialized bacteria that the bean plant plays host to. The bacteria invades the roots of the bean, causing nodules to form on the roots, these nodules are where the bacteria live. But it takes time for the bacteria to colonize, build up a population, and start producing good quantities of nitrogen. The nitrogen is actually a waste product the bacteria produces - essentially, it is bacteria pee/poop. Burying the fish heads provides the corn with nitrogen for the first part of its growing season, until the beans get big enough and mature enough for the bacteria to colonize and build up a good size population. 
So Friday before last, it was off to the fish shop down the road to buy a bag of fish heads, and back home to pop them in the freezer for a few days. They were big fish heads, so I figured it was going to be easier (less messy) chopping them when they were frozen rather than fresh and gooey. A few days later, there I am - like something out of a B grade horror flick - out back, early morning, with the fog lifting, honking great splitting axe in hand, chopping up fish heads. Cooool! That's OK though. All the neighbours already know I'm mad as a hatter and are fine with it.
After that, it was digging out the topsoil, to bury the fish heads far enough down that the local cat over-population wouldn't dig them up. A few days later, all was well, nothing rummaging around in the garden, so on Thursday I planted out the corn seedlings.
On Friday, much to my delight, the beans I bought online finally arrived. The average marathon runner is faster than NZ Post. A quick cup of coffee while sitting out surveying the garden, then the cute little beans were carefully tucked up in their nice warm (garden) beds - one bean next to each corn plant. We tuck our children into their beds to sleep, and our seeds into their beds to wake up - it has a nice symmetry. 
After doing my due diligence in research, I had decided on Selugia beans as the beans I wanted to plant with my corn. Selugia beans are not actually that common, and of course even common things are hard to get here in New Zealand. So I was thrilled to find, while Googling the various beans I was interested in, that an entry for a trader on Felt came up for the Selugia beans.
Felt is a New Zealand craft, artisan, and cottage industry online marketplace. It is like Etsy, but NZ only (NZ only to list - most quite happily ship International), and a lot stricter in what constitutes crafts/cottage industry - which I like. Unlike Etsy, a trader who lives in the US but runs a factory in China paying pissy wages to dirt poor peasants and shipping the goods from the factory in China, can't call themselves a crafter or list their items (I know that happens on Etsy because I have come across quite a few of them - especially in the clothing category).
Anyway, back to the beans. A very nice trader and fellow organic gardener, who goes by the moniker Big Bunny, had Selugia beans for sale. For those of you down in Christchurch, you can find Big Bunny at Anissa Victoria's Vintage Market, where he sells a nice selection of heirloom variety veggie plants that he grows himself from seeds. As I was browsing thru the seeds he had on offer online, I saw he also had Anaszi Beans. Ooooo! I've always wanted to try those! So I got a packet of those as well. According to Big Bunny, the Anasazi bean is halfway between a bush bean and a climber in in its growing habit, so I planted the Selugia on the inner corn plants, and the Anasazi on the outer corn plants, to give them a little more space to do their bushy thing.
Aren't they preeetty! They go nicely with my very cool blue corn and red corn (see Knitting Frustrations and Fancy Corn)

Selugia Bean
Anasazi Bean

Bean beans the magical fruit,
the more you eat the more you toot,
the more you toot the better you feel,
so eat those beans at every meal.