They don’t look like much; do they? These pods drying on the vine are my heritage. Those age-speckled leaves belong to the half-runner beans my grandfather passed on to me. This tasty bean has been grown in my family, passed down from generation to generation, for over a hundred years. I was able to grow enough to save seed for the first time this year — and it’s a good thing, too. No one else in my family is interested or has the time or space to carry on the tradition. (Although I suspect my sister will be growing it just as soon as she has her own kitchen garden. I’m saving extra seed for just that eventuality.)
This is not the kind of family heirloom that can sit in a drawer until someone next notices its beauty or value or it is rediscovered by a newcomer too young to take it for granted. For the members of my family not yet born to be able to appreciate the value of a variety of bean that is well-suited to the local climate, prolific, almost ornamental in its beauty, and, as Granddaddy puts it, “good eatin’,” someone has to keep growing them year after year and saving the seed. Someone’s heart and hands have to be engaged in that work perpetually, which is perhaps why I now have such a profound appreciation for how rare a treasure this seed is.
Maybe that’s why it tastes so good, that bean. Generations of diligent and passionate hands have poured their personality and intelligent husbandry into the pods. Because it is alive, it must continually be nurtured. Its value can never be forgotten, not for a single growing season, or the chain may be broken, the precious heritage lost forever. I am taking my place at the end of that long chain, and I have never felt so humble as when I contemplate my responsibility to these tiny living beings.