I first planted these beans in the summer of 2003. We went to Paris the previous fall and bought these beans, Facila is the variety, on our daughter's first birthday. When they grew that first summer, we reminded her that these were her birthday beans, the ones we bought in Paris. She ate them with relish right off the plant. I saved seed from the best plants and the following spring planted them again. And here we are, harvesting birthday beans for the seventh time. And they're still my daughter's favorite.
This, perhaps, is how things get named. When I list these beans in the Seed Savers Yearbook I'll document that the bean was originally named Facila, and that it's a variety sold by Vilmorin, the old French seed house that's taken over a large share of the world's seed trade, but I may call them Birthday Beans instead. It's as good a name as any I've heard for a bean. I love the story we tell each other every year, and how we say Birthday Bean with more enthusiasm than, say, "zucchini." Our daughter was born on 9.12.01, and the moment she was born I saw proof that life is irrepressible, that life itself will bourgeon and blossom and will not fail, even when people do. And as these beans grow and nourish us each year, we, too, are renewed each time we save seed and plant it; we midwife the seed from one generation to the next.
Last night I picked a bowl-full for dinner. I blanched them very briefly - they were in boiling water for less than 30 seconds - because they're so tender and fresh and I just wanted to brighten them up a bit. I quickly doused them in cold water and turned the burner on high. Into the saucier went a teaspoon of duck fat; as soon as it was hot I added the beans, fresh tarragon, and a sprinkling of fine sea salt. Two minutes from the garden to the table, full of green and family lore.
birch and grasses alone on the snow, grey sky indistinguishable. the flat world falls into the edge of time, lifeless, dull wedge of horizon and soundless ...