A guest post by Elizabeth Matlin
Despite autumnal coolness and waning daylight, the over five-foot-high tower of pole beans is still going strong at my community garden plot. I planted green, wax and heirloom purple bean seeds in early June and was harvesting by mid-July. Having successfully fenced out the voles (meadow mice) from my plot this year (they killed my bean vines by late August last year), I should be harvesting beans through mid-October. If you’ve never harvested pole beans, it’s truly like playing a game of hide-and-seek. The lush leaves drop like a heavy curtain over the bean pods, obscuring them from sight. And try to find a green bean among green leaves–Mother Nature’s perfect camouflage! Even the yellow and purple beans seem shy. Lifting a curtain of leaves and finding the beans dangling in couplets like jewels is like finding buried treasure! Every time I tie up the fence door to my plot and am about to walk away, I see ready-to-pick beans I’ve somehow managed to miss. It’s as if they’ve pulled back the leaves and giggle that they’ve won hide-and-seek this time. Having several helpers pick beans would certainly make the task easier, especially when harvesting every other day. The beans form from the base of the plants all the way up to the top of the vines, so enlisting the help of children of different ages and heights is a great way to make the picking go quicker. When I squat down to harvest the beans near the ground and look up the tall tower of thick, twisting vines and leaves, the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk comes to life. How magical for a small child to pick some pole beans after reading the story! Maybe we could get Jack to help us, too!
Note: The only caution with picking beans is to watch out for bees pollinating the ever-present blossoms of future beans.