Friday, December 28, 2007

Schizohedron and the Beanstalk

THIS IS ONE OF THOSE posts for which having a digital camera would be useful, but I'll do the best I can to describe the result of an accidental bean sprout toughing it out in the most unlikely place.

A few weeks ago, I brewed up a batch of chili. I use dry beans whenever possible instead of canned. Dry beans hold up better during the long simmer, ensuring that my frozen batches — stored in my fridge like so many cryonic heads — will not turn to mush when I microwave them back to molten, superspicy goodness. I pick through the beans before cooking to weed out any tiny stones or funky wrinkled beans (isn't that a comic strip?), then rinse the remaining ones in a colander.

While doing this and pouring them into my pot, a lone pinto bean got loose into the sink. I tried to pick the wet little bugger up, but couldn't get a grip on it. So I used the plunger end of my sink plug to push it down through the trap and out of mind.

Or so I thought. Somehow, this tenacious bean wedged itself into the sink plug. I found it weeks later, when I removed the trap to clean it out. There, snuggled between the metal bars that act to anchor the trap in the sink, rested the bean, its spotted shell pale and discarded and hanging on the edge of a whitish, inch-long sprout. From the other side of the bean emerged a root.

I had, in effect, created a bean sprout.

This isn't the first inadvertent germination that's occurred in my kitchen. Months ago I'd kept a rhizome of ginger past its stale date, which then put forth roots. Had I any spare soil in the joint, I'd have planted it just to see what might happen.

I still don't have any bags of topsoil, but I do have a number of existing plants, including one that's rather too small for its pot. I carefully extracted the sprout from its metal lodging, dug a hole in the huge pot just mentioned, and dropped the seed in. I then covered it up and watered the surrounding area.

For a few days, nothing happened. I figured, the worst thing to occur would be the main plant gets a small, rotting seed on which to feed, Nothing like a little spare nitrogen.

This is where the camera would come in handy. If you ever grew vegetables from seedlings, or experimented with seeds in grammar school, you know what a bean seed looks like when it finally pierces the earth and extends its head to the sun. (This picture will help fill in the blanks.) The sprout appeared quite suddenly over the course of yesterday, greeting me when I finally staggered home from work, and is now a good 3½" tall.

My next course of action will be to buy some soil, extract this bugger from its current bed before the roots get too complex, then plant it in a spare 2-lb. yogurt tub I've got lying around. In an ideal world, I'd then transplant it, along with scores of other seedlings, into a garden. Not an option as an apartment dweller, sadly. I'll let it grow as much as I can get it to inside; I believe beans are annuals, so this might have a built-in stale date. Still, as a surprise science experiment, it just shows how relentless life can be.

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