My mother-in-law was an interesting woman. She had a strange sense of humor, was as fierce as they came, guarded her memorized recipes tightly, and cared for her family through every action. I admired her a lot.
Grief does strange things to a person. I can’t remember who decided to grab them, my husband or I but one of the random items kept when cleaning out her kitchen was an old bag of black beans. I really have no clue why. They held no significant meaning or memories, and I knew we wouldn’t eat them. Maybe because they were about to be trash, and I’m not too fond of food waste. One of us saved them from the back of her pantry and stashed them in the back of our pantry.
There they stayed. The black beans stayed tightly sealed on a shelf for two years and waited for what I was unsure. Then I had an idea.
Come spring, my husband tilled some ground in our little bean patch, and we planted two short rows of my Mother-In-Law’s beans. They grew! Surprisingly they grew better than any other storage bean we’d planted, which were mostly expensive heirloom seeds. And they produced! Now I know, in a pinch, you can grow grocery store beans! I imagined what Debbie would say about our little science experiment. It would have been one of two things- “Well, that’s stupid.” or “That’s pretty cool.” As I said, she had an odd sense of humor.
At the end of the gardening season, we had a small harvest. We gathered the plump dried pods and cracked them from their shells. We ended up with an 8oz jar of black beans.
It felt pretty amazing that she was still providing for her family. We will use a portion of the harvested beans for planting in the spring. (Along with some of the bag beans still in the back of our pantry.) We will use the rest for making warm hearty meals during this cold season. Maybe as a side dish to go along with the only secret meal recipe she ever shared with me.
Written by Jenna Webb