Why I Grow Purple Beans, Part I (Or, Carrots Grow From Carrot Seeds)

Before I contemplated fiction writing, I considered doing a nonfiction collection of gardening tales called Why I Grow Purple Beans. I still may, someday. But in the meantime, I’ll write a series of posts on the subject.

I’ve finally come to grips with the fact that winter, such as it wasn’t, is limping offstage while spring bounds up to take its place. As much as I regret having missed out on winter, I do like spring — because it’s gardening time. (Rubbing hands with anticipation.)

I’ve already purchased my seeds. Yesterday, I disinfected my seed-starting equipment and planted the first of this year’s “babies:” cabbage, parsley, and black-eyed susan vine (Thunbergia). In another week or so, I’ll add tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant to the collection. Let the games begin!

I didn’t come by gardening naturally. Or maybe it was in my blood, but I didn’t realize it until relatively late in life.

My first experience with the adventure was the summer when I was probably four years old. My parents owned a duplex. We lived on the ground floor and rented out the upstairs. A walk ran beside the house, down one step and through a gate, then along the back of the house to the covered staircase that led to the rental apartment. We must have recently had some work done on that walkway, because that spring, there was a small wedge of bare ground between the sidewalk, the driveway, and the backyard fence. And for some reason, Mom suggested we (that is, she and I) plant it in radishes and carrots.

This was a tiny little triangle of rocky clay. To my knowledge, neither of my parents had ever had a vegetable garden. I have no idea what prompted her to suggest such a thing, but she seemed to think I wanted to do it, and I let her talk me into it.

Maybe it was the record. (Remember records?) My brother and I had a number of 78 rpm records with stories and songs for kids, and a little kid-sized record player to play them on. One of them told a great story called The Carrot Seed. The picture on the record jacket showed a little boy pushing a huge carrot—longer than he was tall—in a wheelbarrow.

In the story, a little boy found a carrot seed and wanted to plant it. His family gave him no encouragement. His mother said (I’d sing it for you, but you’d cover your ears and run away screaming):

Mothers know so many things little boys can’t know,
So don’t be disappointed if your carrot doesn’t grow.

His father said the same thing, but in a different tune and a deeper voice.

His big brother said (and you can imagine the tone of voice for this one): Nya, nya, it won’t come up! Nya, nya, it won’t come up! It won’t come up it won’t come up, your carrot won’t come up!

Undeterred, the little boy sang:
I’ll water it. I’ll pull the weeds. Carrots grow from carrot seeds.

And he did. Every day, he went out and tended that little carrot seed, singing his little ditty. But his family never cared enough to go out and look at it.

Then one day in late summer, he came up to the house pushing the wheelbarrow with the carrot hanging out of it. When his shocked family exclaimed over it, he answered:
I watered it. I pulled the weeds. Carrots grow from carrot seeds.

So maybe my mom had heard me playing the record and/or singing the song around the house and wanted to give me the opportunity to see that carrots do, in fact, grow from carrot seeds. And perhaps she thought it would be a good idea to plant radishes, too, so I wouldn’t have to wait so long to see results.

Whatever her motive, she showed me how to plant the seeds. I don’t recall using anything resembling fertilizer or compost or mulch. I think we just scratched some rows in the hard, stony ground and put in some seeds. We watered them, though I don’t think we did it on anything like a regular basis. I clearly remember being less than enthralled with the weed-pulling process. And I don’t think we ever got any carrots from that concrete-like soil.

But I do recall the radishes. Tiny little things, like dirty red marbles. The reason I remember is because my mom suggested I share some with the people who lived upstairs. They had a little girl a bit younger than me, and we used to play together frequently, so I was on friendly enough terms with them. But I was too shy to offer them the radishes. My mom insisted, so I took a handful and went reluctantly to the door at the bottom of the stairs and knocked. Timidly. Hoping no one would hear me. Which, of course, they didn’t.

So I went back and told my mom there must be nobody home. She was surprised. “But I can hear them up there. Did you ring the bell?”

I don’t know what happened after that. I just remember thinking that ringing the bell and offering them the radishes seemed like the hardest thing in the world.

And my one experience with veggie gardening did nothing to whet my appetite for more.

Whether or not this has whetted your appetite for more gardening stories, they’ll be coming in the future. In the meantime, sing along with me:

I’ll water it. I’ll pull the weeds. Carrots grow from carrot seeds.

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4 thoughts on “Why I Grow Purple Beans, Part I (Or, Carrots Grow From Carrot Seeds)

  1. Great post. This brought back many great memories for me. I grew a garden when I was about eight. I had green beans, carrots, and cucumbers. It was the best time of my life. I loved it so much. Thank you for this post and the walk down memory lane.

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