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Happy Harvest: Frijolon Gris

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It has been a long time since I played in the garden. I have not been a good steward of my land and as we got busier and busier over the holiday season, I left my precious Oaxacan runner beans to fend for themselves. We experienced a very wet season, followed by several nights with freezing temperatures and the mornings have been foggy. You would have thought my forgotten bean crop would be a goner, but you'd be wrong.

Mid-February and this is my harvest.

I looked and I saw a few funky pods. When I opened them, the beans were fine. I ran into the house to get my incredibly wonderful ayate de ixtle, which is a large harvesting sheet, perfect for beans, made from the fiber of the maguey plant. This prized piece is from Hidalgo and takes hours to make. It's especially clever because you can fold up the four corners and wear it like a backpack and not lose a single bean.

Dirt and dust can slip through but the harvest remains intact.

I picked the obvious pods but the more I picked, the more I found. They are good at hiding and once you get the rhythm of their growth patterns, you find a lot of them.

The pods looked very funky and many of them split open as I threw them unto the ayate. You can see that I was also harvesting a little borage with its pretty flowers.

You can pick up the ayate from the four sides and make a sack. I hung this and hit it with a stick and the rest of the beans came popping out of their pods. When you open the ayate de ixtle back up, you can easily pick up the spent pods and these will obviously go into the compost bin. The beans remaining are amazingly clean.

This is a shot of the plant last October. You can eat the flowers raw or cooked.

The bean is Frijolon Gris, a grey runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus) from Oaxaca that clearly has acclimated to Northern California. The hummingbirds love it and they were nice enough to leave me a lot of beans. I also suspect that many of the early beans fell into the soil and they'll be naturalized but I'll keep some of these for planting in the spring, just in case. I would guess you would have similar results with any of the runner beans, like Scarlet Runners, Ayocote Negro, etc. but these are particularly pretty. Lacking an authentic ayate de ixtle, I bet you would have great results with an old sheet.

The inevitable question is probably how to get the beans or the ayate de ixtle and for now, sadly, the answer has to be whipping out your passport and going on a Mexican adventure. Now that the COVID crisis is easing, I can't think of a better way to celebrate.



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