Last year this time, the date for my hip replacement was fast approaching. I was looking for any heartening events to help me through the experience because I was scared. I found a packet of Scarlet Emperor beans to plant — a couple years old — and thought, “Why not try them?”
The seeds are beautiful — purple and black — and I’d bought the packet when a friend had come through town. We’d had lunch then visited the awesome hardware store downtown.
Lo and behold, the beans sprouted and grew. For some reason, I loved them as you might love a pet and I named them for Chinese emperors and Chinese writers I loved. They grew as houseplants for a while and then I gave them away. I had a few seeds left and I stuck one in the dirt in one of my raised beds after my surgery. He quickly sprouted and grew. I continued being amazed by him all summer.
Scarlet Emperor Beans grow to be 12 feet tall, and they have beautiful red flowers and enormous seed pods. They’re edible and tasty, but I didn’t eat any of them. I saved them all to plant this year.
I planted a few of Cao Xue Xin’s progeny in Jiffy pots, and one has sprouted. I’m thrilled.
I have named my “grandbean” Wu Song, after one of the most heroic characters in Shui Hu Chuan which is sometimes described as a Chinese Robin Hood. It’s a fallacious comparison as there is no cannibalism or tigers in Robin Hood. Shui Hu Chuan was written hundreds of years ago — no one knows for sure because things like authorship were not important during the early times of Chinese fiction, in fact, writing fiction could land a person in jail. It’s set in the 12th century. It’s probably the most popular story in China even today.
It has many characters so if the beans do well, I could have the whole novel growing in my garden. This year I will eat the beans.