After a long corporate week of being shackled to the desk and conference calls, this morning’s post brought unbelievable joy in an unassuming four by six inch package. On seeing the “return to” address I knew I would be happy but as Suttons dispatches in time for use, it was not immediately clear which part of my recent order would be included in this delivery.
For some years now Suttons has been a trusty provider of seeds, bulbs and many other goodies for the garden. Recently I placed an order for seeds and fruit bushes. I knew it would not be the red currant, blueberry or gooseberry bushes because of the size of the delivery and the month, but which seeds would I find in the reinforced envelope?
The sticky tape and cardboard gave way to packets of seeds for broad beans, sweet peas and stocks. The flower seeds were early arrivals as I would not start sowing them in pots on the windowsill until January but the broad beans had arrived just on time.
As the autumn nights draw in and the chill in the air hints at the imminent arrival of winter, life in the garden slows down. As this is the first season for ours, we do not yet have a late autumn harvest to keep our spirits lifted. Instead I am preparing the garden for next year, working the soil, planting bulbs… all with the promise of new life and, with a little luck, fresh vegetables and home-grown bouquets in the spring.
The beans, and for that reason also the sweet peas and stocks, arrived at a psychologically important time. As our seasonal cuisine turns to stews and roots, it is uplifting to sow beans that are so closely associated with the spring. Broad beans have such a short season – barely six weeks when they are at their freshest and most succulent – that their intense flavour summarises the joy of the produce of spring. It is almost as if the soil offers as a burst of taste to get us ready for the later arrivals of summer.
For now, however, the simple act of sowing broad beans into the damp soil is enough to reassure a restless soul that there is more to the autumn and winter months than short days and a time for hibernation. Hidden from the naked eye, beans and garlic will start their slow germination whilst the spring bulbs absorb the nutrients from the warm autumn soil ready to herald in a new year with a riot of colour and scent.