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Just Podding Along

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'Hurrahing in Harvest" - Gerard Manley Hopkins's ecstatic phrase - is not Monty's. She's booing about that famous gardeners' conundrum: too much all at once.

I really don't have this problem. My first-year plot has wide uncultivated tracts and my shed, a potful of unopened seed packets. But my peas and broad beans are ready, and they, at least, have not staggered their ripening.

We oversimplify the seasons. Autumn, for example, is "harvest time." But harvesting belongs no less to late spring, early summer, high summer, late summer, to all the permutations of fall - AND winter. Plus, the seasons themselves refuse conventionality. This August ("summer") morning was dewy, soft, sun-percolated, autumnal. It felt right for harvesting.

The detail of gardening appeals. Essentially, peas and broad beans are similar, producing pods from which humans steal the seeds. But peas and broad beans (about the oldest cultivated bean known), demand handling, in the process of harvesting, shelling, cooking and eating, as subtly different as, say, carrots and spinach.

Broad beans are sturdy stemmed. The beans are cosseted in rather hefty pods, lined with soft felt. A removed bean leaves a concave impress where it rested. It might not be at all bad comfortwise being a broad bean in its pod. The beans themselves, though, look a bit cloddish, like a bean inventor's first attempt. Hardly refined. But, picked at the right moment (when, Big Ted says, the pods have a kind of shine to them), broad beans have, boiled or steamed, a delicacy of flavor at odds with their appearance.


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