I've been cleaning up after last week's tragic heat wave disaster where I lost quite a few of my plants. The plants I was especially bummed about were my edamame soybeans- I lost 9 out of 14 edamame plants, dried up and brown. They had been growing beans for a few weeks and were just about ready to be harvested when the heat wave hit.
But as I was accepting defeat, cutting and cleaning and getting ready to re-plant in the space where these soybeans once grew, I realized they weren't a total waste... I had accidentally made dried beans!
Beans, such as my edamame, grow in pods. Some bean pods are edible (snow peas!), but some pods are just cases to hold the food. Humans figured out long ago that beans can be stored for long periods of time by pulling them out of the pods and drying them into hard little rocks (the oldest presered soybeans ever found were in Korea, dating back to 1000 BCE). When you want to eat the dried beans, simply soak them in hot water and they are magically rejuvinated! This method of preservation is so simple and smart that we still buy dried beans from grocery stores today.
Aside from being food, beans are also the seeds of the plant. In their natural environment the beans would grow on the plant until the end of the summer season, when the pods and beans would dry out and eventually fall off the plant into the soil. The dried seeds would hibernate there in the soil until warm wet spring, when they will sprout into new plants. The circle of life! AHHH!!
The heatwave did all of this for me. It dried up the nearly-ripe beans into nice preserved little balls, so when I cut down the plant, I had handfulls of dried soybeans. I collected all of the beans. (And PS, you can see in the photo below that I'm wearing my slammin' new Sally Hansen Salon Effects nail strips in the pattern "Girl Flower"!)
Once I had these dried beans, I instantly thought of real life farmers. When something like this happens, they have to make a difficult choice: Do they use these dried beans as food for their family, or do they save them as seed for next year's crop? If I was living only on the food I grew and the heatwave demolished more than half of my soybeans, this would be a life-changing decision. We lost our crop so we don't have enough food to eat-- maybe we should eat these beans? But losing the crop also means we'll have less seed to plant next year-- maybe we should save it to guarantee we won't starve one year from now?
Thankfully I'm not a subsistance farmer, but this is a very real situation for farmers all over the world. Since I have plenty of other food to eat, I'm not hard pressed to make a decision yet and my dried edamame beans are in a ziploc bag in the fridge.
What do you think: Food or seed?