DIY Food

Ev­ery seed has a story, and some are sown with love.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - Words Kristina Jensen

A bean love story

When I cleaned out Mum and Dad's garage, fol­low­ing her death in 2013, I found a drawer of en­velopes. They were marked with cryp­tic la­bels in her tidy hand­writ­ing. These were her seed trea­sures: 'Les­ley's beans', 'Apache beans', ‘Alice – SR'. Some were less of a mys­tery, like 'green beans with pur­ple stripes'.

I in­her­ited mum's bean seeds and her love of grow­ing them. In the past few years, I have also dis­cov­ered some of their ori­gins. The 'green with pur­ple stripes' va­ri­ety came from the Dal­ma­tian com­mu­nity in Puhoi, 50km north of Auck­land. The scar­let run­ners (‘Alice – SR') are from my grand­mother, Alice.

The Apache beans are not from the Apache tribe. It ap­pears that Mum took a 'some­where in the Amer­i­cas' la­belling ap­proach.

I love seed sto­ries, and Lynne and Doug Mcmil­lan are part of one that is also a love story.

Marika Lag­o­nikaki was 14 years old when she met 21-year-old New Zealan­der, Ian Begg, for the first time.

It was 1941 and the Bat­tle for Crete was rag­ing. Ian was among thou­sands of sol­diers left be­hind when Al­lied troops were forced to with­draw. He was cap­tured by Ger­man solid­ers and sent to a pris­oner of war camp, but man­aged to es­cape to the moun­tains.

Even­tu­ally, he made it to Sa­monas, near Marika's vil­lage of Nio Ho­rio. Local peo­ple risked their lives to hide and nurse sick sol­diers, feed­ing them with what­ever food they could spare. One of them was Marika's mother, Irini (who was later awarded a Ge­orge Medal for her ef­forts).

When Ian and Marika met, he was hid­ing in an at­tic, weak and jaun­diced by hep­ati­tis. Marika vis­ited him ev­ery week, un­til pres­sure from the Ger­mans forced Ian to move up into the hills to a cave. Even­tu­ally, he ended up as a pris­oner of war in Poland, then Ger­many.

Months af­ter the war ended, Marika re­ceived a let­ter from Ian, now home in New Zealand. He was anx­ious to find out if her fam­ily had sur­vived Ger­man reprisals and ex­e­cu­tions. Once he es­tab­lished that they were alive and well, he pro­posed to Marika and she ac­cepted.

The lan­guage bar­rier, and that Ian was a shadow of his former self (he weighed just 38kg at the time of repa­tri­a­tion), did not de­ter her. Now 19-year-old Marika had only trav­elled 25km from her home prior to her long jour­ney to New Zealand. She stuffed her favourite bean seeds in her bra for safe­keep­ing.

The cou­ple were mar­ried on September 14th, 1946 and made their home in Christchurch. Their won­der­ful gar­den in­cluded veg­eta­bles and flow­ers from the seeds Marika smug­gled in from Crete.

Lynne and Doug Macmil­lan met Marika through their work as co-or­di­na­tors of the NZ Bat­tle of Crete As­so­ci­a­tion (South Is­land

Marika spoke lit­tle English, but ar­rived from Italy, her favourite bean seeds stuffed in her bra.

Is­land branch) com­mem­o­ra­tions. They run it in hon­our of Lynne's fa­ther, who was a sol­dier in Crete and lived in the White Moun­tains for nearly two years be­fore be­ing cap­tured by the Ger­mans.

They didn't get to meet Ian Begg be­fore he died. His friend Merv Sim, passed the seeds onto Lynne and Doug for safe­keep­ing.

They have been grow­ing the beans, sav­ing seeds, and dis­tribut­ing them to bean lovers, in ex­change for a small do­na­tion to the Bat­tle Of Crete As­so­ci­a­tion.

Crete beans on the vine.

Ian and Marika Begg

Lynne and Doug co­or­di­nate vol­un­teers in the Red Cross 'patch' at the Marl­bor­ough Com­mu­nity gar­dens. Their aim is to en­cour­age peo­ple in­ter­ested in gar­den­ing to vol­un­teer and learn about dif­fer­ent tech­niques. Any sur­plus fresh veg­eta­bles are do­nated to the local food bank and John's Kitchen.

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