The Everyday Lore Project

12 May 2020 – Old May Day Eve

12 May 2020 – Old May Day Eve

Continuing the legume theme, today I planted me some kidney beans. It’s the second Tuesday in May, aka St Pancras’ Day, aka the day of the Ashendon Feast, aka Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday, aka Old May Day Eve, and it’s said that on the second Tuesday in May, you should plant your beans. So I did. Albeit in a state of woeful unpreparedness.

I went for kidney beans because of this handy planting guide equating elm leaves with money. Obviously. In one traditional rhyme it’s said that:

When elum leaves are as big as a farden (farthing)
‘Tis time to plant kidney beans in the garden

Whereas another slightly more racy version states:

When the elm leaves are as big as a shilling
Plant kidney beans, if to plant ‘em you’re willing;
When the elm leaves are as big as a penny,
You must plant kidney beans if you want to get any

Fingers crossed this isn’t some sort of legume equivalent of pampas grass.  

Anyhow, I ferreted out some kidney beans. Apparently you can use shop bought dried beans for this. But that’s where the preparation ended. I hadn’t read ahead and done fancy things like soaking the beans overnight, or sprouting them on kitchen towel for two weeks. I also had neither drainage for my pot, nor space in my patch of bright sunlight. So unless I risked breaking a nail gouging out the bungaroosh from my walls, and somehow engineering the pot onto the roof, I was a bit stuck.

But then I remembered my leftover marbles, not perfect but potentially passable drainage, so into the pot they went. And I think with some fancy footwork I should be able to accommodate the sunshine. Besides the spuds should be out soon. 

So that’s me planted. In other news, I noticed my fork had fallen out. This has now been rectified so good luck should resume shortly. And as, according to some sources, it’s Old May Day Eve (it might also have been yesterday), you might want to protect yourself from fairies again tonight. Just saying.


Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Vickery, R. (2019) Vickery’s Folk Flora, An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

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