beans that go bang?

Hey, internet friends, before I even start trying to write – revel in joy. Why? Why, because I posted new pictures to Keaton’s gallery. This should catch us up to the present, if hastily. Check them out here, covering sabbatical times including September and October. I’ll try and upload some pictures from Oktoberfest later in the week, but you’ll have to make due with cute babies for now.

10:30am now, up since 7:30am when Keaton decided it was time. It’s sort of nice, having a reason to be awake early, something to kickstart the day, get the shower waters on me, the deodorant under my arms, brush on my teeth. On top of being up early, I got the morning to myself – to read and surf the internet and listen to music. I could’ve called people who are also on sabbatical, seen what they’re up to, maybe made arrangements to meet up and do something… but I didn’t Sometimes I just don’t want to move a stitch. I think it has to do with feeling “in control” of everything – which is easier when “everything” is practically nothing. I decide that I sit here; I decide when to eat lunch, and what to eat; I decide what to listen to; I don’t do anything I don’t want to do. It’s easy that way, it’s what sabbatical is all about for me – and I love it.

Tonight Sharaun cooked again for the older couple we occasionally do dinners with (the subject of blogs prior), and the conversation, as it did last time, turned to WWII-era times. It’s so fascinating to me to hear, firsthand, about those times in American history – right from the mouths of those who lived and fought during them. And tonight I heard something that piqued my interest. Our friend and meal companion mentioned that, during the war, her dad used to grow and sell black-eyed beans (which she says are the same thing as black-eyed peas, but that’s not what they called them then) to the US government for use in making gunpowder. This sounded strange to me, so I asked her more. Apparently, her dad used to profit more selling black-eyed peas to the government during wartime, for gunpowder, than from any of his other crops. Crazy, right?

Well, being the guy who hungers for knowledge about such things, as well as being the guy who was once the kid who was obsessed with all things incendiary – I just had to know how to make gunpowder from beans. So, as soon as we got home I hit Google looking for some reference to peas/beans along with gunpowder. After searching for a while and coming up with zilch, I hit Wikipedia to read up on the history of both gunpowder and black-eyed peas. Even armed with this information, I could find no reference whatsoever to the use of black-eyed peas, or any substance derived from them, in the manufacture of black powder.

I ask you, internet, help me figure this out. What the heck could the WWII-era relationship be between black-eyed peas and gunpowder, or guns, or artillery in general? Late in my searching, I found that sodium nitrate (archaically referred to as saltpeter), a key ingredient in black powder, occurs naturally in “leafy green vegetables” (Wikipedia source). I also found an obscure reference in one of Google’s online scans of a book called, Gunpowder, Explosives And the State: A Technological History, where they say that, in ancient Egypt, the “stems of lupine peas provided charcoal for gunpowder.”

Could it be that this woman’s dad was somehow selling greens to be processed for saltpeter? Or maybe he was selling the stems as a basis for the charcoal which is also a key gunpowder ingredient? I’m just dying to know…

Unrelated, except for being on Google Books, I found this “experiment” hilarious.


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3 Replies to “beans that go bang?”

    1. I am 90 years old. When I was young ,we raised blackeyes. Almost all farmers raised them. I asked at that time ,why? I was told that they were a key ingredent in gun powder. I have never been able to find any answers as to how they were used.

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