By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach
I'm growing broad beans at the moment and it's taking ages - They went into the ground as seedlings a few months ago and now stand proud about 4 feet tall, covered in flowers with no bean in sight. And because I'm increasingly excited about the development of these beans I have had to consult some plant biology pages online to find out what's happening and when I can expect to eat my beans. With this practical experience behind me, I'm now interested to learn what's actually happening to my beans.
I learn that my bean plants germinated from seed, and needed water, warmth and a good location to do that. I learnt that until the sprouted seed was large enough to produce its own food it relied on the fuel stored in its seed. Once the plants pushed through the soil they could make their own food and really grow relying entirely on the temperature, water, nutrients from the soil and light. Within the leaves of my plants is a green pigment called chlorophyll which helps plants make the food it needs to grow and survive using the process of photosynthesis.
The stems of the plant support the plant and act like a plumbing system conducting water and nutrients from the roots and food in the form of glucose from the leaves to other plant parts.
Now my beans are flowering and I learn that they are in the process of pollination, the final step before they produce new seeds - my beans!
The flowers have male parts (stamens) and female parts (pistels). At the top of the pistil is the stigma which is sticky and ready to catch pollen.
(I'll keep going because this next bit totally reinforces my understanding that we humans are simple creatures of nature.)
When pollen from the male stamen of a plant is carried to the female stigma of the same plant it's called self-pollination, and when that pollen is carried to the female stigma of a different plant it's called cross pollination and, as is the case with animals and humans, cross pollination produces the stronger species.
Hopefully the wind or some insects collecting pollen for food have pollinated my beans plants because if they have I should expect to see beans quite soon.
I'm told by Mr Google that broad beans take around 100 days to harvest and I'm also told that when they do harvest and I make my favourite broad bean, olive and avocado salad, I'll benefit from a high number of nutrients including plant protein, thiamin, vitamin K, vitamin B-6, potassium, copper, selenium, zinc and magnesium.
But at the end of the day over and above everything else I have learnt from my experience of growing broad beans 2 key things and they are this:
1. When we consider the process and the time it takes we realise how much more we should value the fresh food we buy from our local greengrocer.
2. We humans are simple creatures of nature and the food plants make -not the food humans make - is the food we should eat.