A chum sent me some seeds of ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ beans. She’s a great gardener, with lots of skill and clearly the right temperament for a shared passion. Looking up the origin of the name, I uncovered a large piece of American history attached to the Cherokee Nation, and it makes for uncomfortable reading.
In a nutshell, the Cherokee Indians were hounded around on their settlements, and eventually kicked out of their promised land when gold was found on their new territories. They were transported from their homes by boats in the summer of 1838, and about 4,000 souls died from disease, exposure and famine. The journey has long been chronicled as ‘The Trail of Tears’.
President Andrew Jackson, a Democrat no less, authorised The Indian Removal Act, not long after a force of 500 Cherokee fighters had saved his life, and what remained of his army at The Battle of Horseshoe Bend, in 1814. Nice guys these Democrats.
Back to the beans.
They were just a small part of the allowance for the Indians’ enforced travel, and some of the original black beans were taken by the refugees and planted as soon as they had enough ground to make a sowing.
They are a fabulous crop, the green early growth is a sweet, tender version of a runner bean, and has a texture unlike any other vegetable. When the beans mature on the pole, they turn black, and can then be harvested for use later on. Like all pulses, they are a rich source of protein and fibre, so are really a superveg in their own right, with a long useful growing season, and a great addition to any further menus in the winter.
We’ve grown enough to use during the summer, and also just finished podding about two pounds of the little black beans which will go in the various soups and casseroles which Mrs O’Blene creates at every opportunity! And all this from just fourteen plants!
I suppose I’ll never stop learning about growing things, and this little piece of history makes for much research and interest, with perhaps more than a little bitterness at why after all these years, a tiny black bean builds into a big and rather unpleasant record of bad times for some great people.