ART IS EVERYWHERE
Since I closed the shop at 2178 Lawndale, I have been setting up a small office in downtown Greensboro which is in proximity to the train tracks and the Greenway.
Bye 2178 Lawndale, you served us well and we miss you so much!
On days when it isn't raining, Pica and I have been taking little walks to explore our new surroundings, venturing further and further every time.
This is what Pica and I call a 'Toadstool Kingdom.'
Today on our walk, we found a footpath along some old train tracks beside a little stream. Our friend the groundhog wasn't out today, but I did immediately spot some sweet little flowers attached to long skinny beans growing on a vine throughout the dense foliage. My first question, of course: CAN I EAT THIS?!
I didn't bring my phone on our walk today, so I brought a sample back to the office to look it up.
Luckily, my search for "wild bean plant with purple flowers," yielded some pretty instant results, and I learned the name of our new plant pal, Strophostyles Helvola a.k.a. Amberique Bean a.k.a. Trailing Wild Bean.
Helvola means yellow-ish, and I assume that's a reference to the color of one of the flowers found on this vine. I'm very curious about the combination of both yellow-ish and purple-ish flowers within the same stalk, but the whole vine contained both, which is something I don't think I've seen before.
They're a petite flower, about the size of a dime. The bean pod on my sample was an immature size, but the fully mature pods were about 3" long, and 1/4" wide. Some of the mature pods were a dark purple/brown color (the same dark color found on the stem here). I did not break open any of the pods to see the beans inside.
What really drew me to the structure of the flower is this little dark purple curl, called the keel petal which asymmetrically curves around the center of the flower.
My sketchbook is made of old To-Do lists, painted over. This gives me a mid-tone and texture to work on, which I generally prefer to a blank white page.
The Amberique Bean so captivated me that it needed to be immortalized in my sketchbook. I haven't fully unpacked my office, so I am using the materials that I have easy access to. My trusty Mangaka Flex is an indispensable part of my sketchbook arsenal, and so are white Gelly Roll pens. I happened to find a selection of colored gel pens in a box I just opened last week.
So, back to the big question. Is the Amberique Bean edible? The answer is yes! It is a wild relative to cultivated beans we buy at the store, and there is evidence from archaeological sites that it was once used as food. Contemporary preparation instructions are sparse. Many beans require a thorough cooking process to make them safe to eat, I'm unsure if our Strophostyles Helvola is one of them. As with all foraging, it's important to trust that the area one is harvesting is free of pesticides and other environmental toxins.
Do you have any experience foraging and cooking with wild beans? What's your favorite way to prepare them?