Can you grow magic beans? A cheap, fun activity for kids

Jenny Chandler

04 April 2016

The Easter holidays are with us, and my daughter Imi and I have just planted some magic beans. 

Child with plant pots, planting bean seeds

Imi (aged 9) and I needed a cheap, fun activity for the holidays.

So when we heard about the Friends of The Earth Pulse Race we jumped at the chance to get involved. The idea is to plant a bean or pea seed and then the race is on to produce the first edible pulse. 2016 is the United Nations’ International Year of Pulses and, as a serious legume enthusiast, I’m all for shouting about these often undervalued ingredients. Beans have the added benefit of being quick and easy to grow, making a great project for kids. So where better to start than by growing our own?

If we were highly competitive we’d have gone for a naturally earlier-maturing broad bean, or a garden pea rather than a runner bean, but we just happen to have a jar of seeds -  or what Imi calls “Magic Beans”.

Jar of bean seeds and plant pot

So what are pulses?

They're a healthy, cheap, sustainable source of energy and, best of all, they taste fantastic too. They really are pretty magical. It may seem bonkers, but it wasn’t until we began sprouting lentils, chickpeas and beans to sprinkle into salads that I thought of all those legumes in the bins at the health food shop, or in the bags stacked on the supermarket shelf, as dormant seeds.

What a feat of nature that those dry beans can burst back into life given the right conditions to germinate. Growing a bean that has been specially bred for planting is still the best way forward for family gardeners though. It is fascinating for a child (and many of us adults too) to make the connection between plant, seed and food on the plate.

Close up of child planting a bean seed
 

Want to grow easy vegetables? Try magic beans...

We’ve inherited our “magic beans” from Imi’s grandfather, who used to grow row upon row of runners on his allotment before he passed away. We’d eat steamed beans, stir-fried beans, curried beans, runner bean chutney, frittata, and so it went on for weeks; he couldn’t pick them quickly enough. This year we’ll nurture just half a dozen plants in the tiny walled garden at the back of our city house and rejoice if we have enough beans for one tasty, nutritious meal. The fact that the orange flowers are as beautiful as anything else in the flower bed (and a great source of food for bees) just comes as a bonus.

After some enthusiastic planting at the weekend, the pots are lined up on the window sill, and Dad has been donated a couple of seeds too in case he was feeling left out. We’ll keep you up to date with our progress but why not join in with the Great Pulse Race too and get gardening with your children? You can win a copy of my book, Pulse, and a host of other tasty prizes.

Child planting seeds in two small plant pots

Don't miss out on more healthy family food tips:

If you've ever wondered what pulses to buy for your cupboards, or hunted for tips for cooking great lentils, keep an eye out. Over the next few months I’m going to share more recipes and ramblings, preparation tips and random facts; I hope to lure you - and the kids - into the kitchen and leave you, quite literally, full of beans. Make sure you're the first to get your hands on these exclusive offerings by signing up to Eat Better with us.


I want to be first to know 

This is a guest blog by Jenny Chandler, food blogger and author of Pulse. Views expressed are those of the author. 

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Child planting seeds in two small plant pots