Brightish and earlyish, we travel across Toxteth to the allotment. Biking is not such a pleasure today. I can hear my muscles creak inside my skin. My brother seems as zippy as ever, and is rather impatient with me. We go past “Dingle Mount’, ‘Dingle Close’. I cast hopefully around for ‘dingle dell’. levity temporarily replaces perception of pain.
The allotments are like a tiny township. The sheds are small squat houses with fences and gates and tiny paths off the mud track road. Julian and Becca’s patch is verdant and productive. Raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries are all doing well, but blackcurrants most of all.
I am tasked with judging the ripeness of the broad beans. I have no idea how to judge the ripeness of broad beans. Its probably been several decades since I’ve even had them – prepared, pod-less. The pods jut from the stem at odd angles. I pick a larger one off, and split it down the seam with my thumbnail. The tiny beans are nestled in their soft spongy bed, I feel like I am committing infanticide, its such a transgression to pull them so violently from their cocoon.
I eat one of the beans. It is sweet, and has an odd flavour that I cannot quite identify. I eat the rest of the beans in the pod, pick another few pods, and put them in my container. I don’t feel confident in my ripeness judging abilities at all. I open another pod, just to make sure, and pop another bean in my mouth. I know what the flavour is! Soap! Its like when you wash up a cup without rinsing and then you make tea in it…It’s still tea, you want tea, it’s nice tea, but there is soap in it. After the taste of tea, the sweet creaminess of the milk, there is a tang, a bitterness at the back of the throat. I decide not to eat any more raw broad beans.
We collect an odd and tiny bounty. But its exciting – I am a Random Farmer. Lettuce, gooseberries, blackcurrant, to put with the three beans in my container. We zoom back home, past the many Dingles, thankfully more downhill than the other way.