Adventures in growing beans in London

Sunday, August 25, 2013

After living in both hotels and hotel-like flats for the last couple of years, it’s a huge relief to live somewhere with outside space (and, well… space). Growing things allows a tiny bit of nature and dirt and reality into an otherwise typical disconnected urban antiseptic lifestyle.

French beans

I planted them in early May, two beans each in two troughs. They took a long time to sprout. It was hugely exciting when they did.


Eventually, they grew so tall I had to find some bamboo poles to support them. Most gardening shops (Clapham has many) will sell these.

The best thing about growing something is the anticipation and visible progress – a tiny peep of the tip of the bud, which a few days later grows a bit taller. Then eventually you see some tiny leaves, which grow bigger, and omg there’s a bud, and it’s grown a bit taller. Eventually, it flowers, and then you can see a tiny bean.

The yield was low: about 20 beans total. Not quite enough to set up my own stall at a local market. Because there were so few beans, I felt like the meal should be special and I should plan it properly. When I usually buy vegetables it’s to have them handy to accompany something – they’re an afterthought.

The time and effort that went into growing my own food changed how I see really cheap bean packets in the supermarkets. So much time, effort and care went into growing them, and I cringe to think of times I’ve chucked away vegetable packs because I’ve forgotten about them and they’re now a bit wilted.