Green Bean Insanity


My earliest memory of green beans involves my three older brothers and I sitting around the kitchen table on a late summer evening, lopping off the ends of fresh green beans for my mother to pickle and can. Our young brains made the determination that it would be a good and fun idea to test the sharpness of the knives on my forearm, and after a couple of inconsequential tests, one of the knives gashed me pretty good. Fortunately, mom and dad were distracted and we cleaned it up without consequence, but the small scar still reminds me of our juvenile foolishness, and this early manifestation of green bean insanity.

Since then, my relationship with green beans has been one of impartial detachment; until recently, when it seems they’ve infiltrated every facet of my life. I remember Monica’s animated reaction to the green bean plan last winter, as we reviewed the spreadsheets. “Whoa, go back,” she’d protested as Oren scrolled rapidly through. “There’s no way we’re planting that many green beans! Who’s going to pick them all!?” My inexperienced mind paid little heed at the time, figuring that a few hundred feet of green beans couldn’t be that big of a deal. It is.


When you harvest that many green beans, you spend hours alternating between a wide-legged forward fold, Catholic-kneel, or yogi squat; searching meticulously through bushy green plants for the skinny, like-colored beans. You move forward one plant, then re-check the two plants you’ve just harvested, only to find that more beans seem to have magically manifested. Your heart breaks the first time you look up to check your progress, realize you haven’t moved, and promise yourself you won’t do it again. Foolishly, you do, and you realize that, though it’s been at least 10 minutes, you still have not moved. You check the plant you just finished and find still more beans. Looking up again, you realize there is virtually no space between you and where you started, and the bed in front of you is lengthening mysteriously. You start to question everything.


There are many manifestations of green bean insanity. One time, Corrina morphed from a lively young woman to an undead zombie. One time, Danny and Logan picked so many beans that they turned into the same person, right before our eyes. One time, Oren actually picked for a while. Every time, the conversations traverse from sensible and practical to theoretical to downright bizarre; and occasionally, they involve some bitching. I caught wind of some grumbles and mumbles from down the bed last Friday, as the sun set and the bean harvest dragged on. “…don’t know who decided to put beans on for wholesale orders anyway… even sell any beans in Point… can’t get $4.00/lb, it’s not worth it… only picked beans once this year; and didn’t even do it at all last year…” This carried on and on, until Monica finally exclaimed, only half-jokingly, “These beans are tearing us apart!” It was true.

And still we carry on — not until the beans are finished, but until we are. Usually the end comes as a result of the sun setting, or an impatient Oren calling from Oak Road, or the collective realization that we couldn’t possibly sell all these beans anyway. Last Friday, we had all converged on the last bed of Dragon Beans when, sure enough, Polly’s phone rang with the impatient Oren, coercing her to wrap it up already, and pick up some takeout food on her way home. She was opposed, and their debate floated passively through my mind for a seemingly exorbitant amount of time. “…okay, well, if I won the lottery, I would just pool my money with other investors, and we could build the high-speed rail, and still have more than enough to live on…” Wow, I thought to myself, this woman has picked one too many green beans.

Inexplicably, I stayed and harvested a few extra after everyone else had left. Knowing Saturday would be slow in the kitchen and that I’d have the help of the boss’s son, for some reason I figured that I may as well pickle some beans. So there we were, my new 12 year-old buddy and I, standing in the kitchen on Saturday morning, lopping the ends off of a huge bag of green beans. “Why are we doing this?” he asked me, as we stuffed the jars with dill and garlic. “Pickled beans,” I responded simply. Honestly, though, I’m not quite sure why… I think the green beans made me do it.