Planting the Pole Beans

I managed to get the pole beans planted last weekend before the latest rains came. I’m using the same trellising method I’ve used for the past few years. I have metal t-posts I set about ten feet apart, with bamboo poles set in between the metal ones for extra support. Then I run a poly rope down the top of the posts to keep the trellis from sagging. I’m using 59″ Hortonova trellis material, which has a 6″ by 7″ opening. It is secured to the posts and poly rope using coated Twist Tie Garden Wire. These ties are reusable, and I’m on my third season for some of them.

pole bean trellis

pole bean trellis

I have about a 40 foot run of pole beans, and I can get the trellis up in an hour or less. This setup has served me well the last few years, and has held up to the loads of vines and beans without falling over or sagging. You can read more details about how I put up the trellis here: Trellising the Pole Beans.

bamboo poles are set between the metal ones

bamboo poles are set between the metal ones

This year I have three of my favorite snap beans planted (Fortex, Musica and Gold Marie) plus a new purple podded one called Trionfo Violetto. I’m also trying two Appalachian heirloom beans called Lazy Wife Greasy and Robe Mountain. For dry pole beans I’m growing Cherokee Trail of Tears and Good Mother Stallard.

Cherokee Trail of Tears beans coming up

Cherokee Trail of Tears beans coming up

The soil was plenty warm when I planted the seeds, over 65°F, but then the weather turned cooler. I was concerned some of the seed might rot before it came up, but I noticed this morning some of them are starting to sprout. The forecast calls for the weather to warm up to more seasonal temps, which means highs near 80°F for the Memorial Day weekend. That should help get the seeds up and growing. It’s rained almost every day since they were planted, two inches in all, so at least I didn’t have to do any watering to get them up! Once the beans are up a few inches tall I will weed around them and them mulch with straw.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Monday Recap: Beans, Greens and Scapes

The garden is giving us lots of green goodies right about now. Like the green garlic for instance, which is starting to bulb up. That’s a good sign, because it means the main garlic crop is sizing up too. We use the green garlic in so many things, anywhere you might use any other kind of allium in the kitchen. I planted about 40-50 cloves last fall that were starting to sprout, and that has kept us well supplied the last couple of months.

green garlic starting to form bulbs

green garlic starting to form bulbs

Those in the above photo wound up in a dish involving another green goodie, Cima di Rapa. I harvested a nice big cutting of the Maceratese variety last week. Unlike most kinds, this variety does not flower and make rapini. Instead it is grown for its leaves, which surely remind me of turnip leaves. As I was harvesting them I found myself thinking “this could be turnip greens”. They had a prickly feel, and the characteristic aroma of fresh turnip leaves.

harvest of Cima di Rapa Maceratese

harvest of Cima di Rapa Maceratese

I cooked them the Italian way, in a big pot of lightly salted water. They were done in less than five minutes, and I drained them and let them cool before chopping them up and using them in a dish with some big Corona beans I cooked up just for the occasion. The cooked greens were more tender and milder tasting than most turnip greens I’ve grown, and I think this variety is a real keeper, especially for a spring planting. I’ll let the plants grow and see how they fare as the weather warms up. The Quarantina variety I harvested a couple of weeks ago gave us nothing worth eating for a second cutting, so I pulled those plants. It will take me a while to figure out the planting schedule, but I think the Cima di Rapa is going to be a favorite around here.

Cima di Rapa with Beans

Cima di Rapa with Beans

To make the bean dish, I cooked a couple of anchovy filets in olive oil until they fell apart, then added two of the chopped up green garlics plus one thinly sliced lemon (with seeds removed). I cooked that briefly then added the chopped Cima di Rapa and a couple of cups of the cooked Corona beans, along with about a half cup of their cooking liquid. I cooked that for about 5 minutes, until the liquid was reduced to a nice consistency. Then I added about a tablespoon of fresh parsley and a bit of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. It made for a hearty and tasty dish, and my wife and I made a meal of it. I decided it needed some crusty bread to sop up the juices so I got some multigrain rolls out of the freezer. Next time I make this I think I will have some fresh baked bread ready!

loaf of 40 Percent Caraway Rye bread

loaf of 40 Percent Caraway Rye bread

And speaking of bread, earlier in the week I whipped up a batch of 40 Percent Caraway Rye bread, a recipe from Jeffrey Hamelman’s classic Bread book. This crusty bread will serve as a starting point for my future bread baking adventures over the next few months, as I search for my favorite hearth bread recipes. This bread has both natural and commercial yeast leavening, and I proofed it in a round brotform before baking it on a hot pizza stone and giving it a steam treatment. It got a tremendous oven spring, and had a little ‘blowout’ on the top of the loaf which tells me I should have let it proof a bit longer. I made a note of that for the next time.

reuben sandwich on 40% Caraway Rye

reuben sandwich on 40% Caraway Rye

We used the bread to make what I call a ‘Canadian Reuben’ that had Canadian bacon along with homemade cabbage sauerkraut and Swiss cheese. Of course there’s nothing really Canadian about the meat, but that’s what most Americans call it. It is a catchier name than ‘unsmoked back bacon’ which would probably be more descriptive. At any rate, the bread made a great sandwich and I look forward to more bread testing as we enter the sandwich days of summer around here. We served it up with some spinach from the garden, briefly cooked with mushrooms and more of the green garlic.

Purple sweet potato slice before cooking

Purple sweet potato slice before cooking

Another meal last week featured one of the Purple sweet potatoes from storage that my wife sliced up, tossed with olive oil, salt and cumin, then grilled. She was admiring the color of the sweet potato slices before cooking, which got me to grab my camera and capture the above image. These sweet potatoes are a lovely mottled purple and white color before cooking. After cooking they turn a uniform dark purple, and this batch made a great combo with salmon burgers served up on my Dark Rye Potato Buns.

grilled Purple sweet potatoes

grilled Purple sweet potatoes

On Saturday I got the first harvest of garlic scapes. These came from the early varieties of Asiatic/Turban types I planted (Xian, Uzbek, Red Janice and Shilla). There will be more scapes later as the rest of the hardneck garlics put up their flower buds. That’s another case for growing these early types, even though they aren’t good keepers. Not only do the bulbs mature earlier, but they are also the first to put up scapes! I made a quick pesto with this batch, which went on pizza we had for dinner that night. I cut a few more yesterday that went into a batch of Daphne’s Garlic Scape Salad Dressing.

first batch of garlic scapes

first batch of garlic scapes

The salad dressing went on a salad I made with some of the Baby Oakleaf lettuce I cut. I also pulled a few of the Helios and Plum Purple radishes for the salad. I saved the radish leaves to make a batch of radish top pesto I’ve been wanting to try. I can see that slugs have been nibbling on the skins, and one of the purple ones cracked after our rain Saturday, but mostly they look pretty clean. I also planted a watermelon type (Starburst) and a spring daikon radish (April Cross) that aren’t ready yet. I’ll plant more radishes for a fall crop.

Helios and Plum Purple radishes

Helios and Plum Purple radishes

I also want to mention we’re having a great year for asparagus. We’ve hauled in over 24 pounds of it so far, with about two more weeks left to harvest it. We generally harvest for about eight weeks, as long as the patch is producing. I roasted that you see in the below photo, which is another of the many ways I enjoy asparagus.

roasted asparagus

roasted asparagus

I kept busy with gardening activities last week. I got a lot of garden prep and planting done in the main garden, and all the tomatoes have now been planted. I normally mulch them with straw on top of newspaper. I put the newspaper down when I plant, and ‘spear’ it with the tomato cage to keep it in place. Then I come back later and add the straw. I planted some of my favorite varieties this year along with a few new ones: slicing tomatoes Sioux and Mortgage Lifter plus small-fruited Blush, Mexico Midget and Umberto. The Umberto was a freebie from Totally Tomato and is an heirloom small pink pear tomato that should be good for drying. For the determinate paste tomatoes I plant one per cage and use shorter tomato cages that fold flat for storage. That’s what you see in the below photo. All the rest are planted two per cage using my homemade remesh cages.

determinate paste tomatoes mulched and caged

determinate paste tomatoes mulched and caged

We currently have lots of clover blooming, and I see the honeybees working it and a few of the other flowers that are blooming. So far the bees are doing well, and we plan another inspection later today or tomorrow. It is great to see them out and about as I’m working outside.

honeybee on white clover

honeybee on white clover

That’s a look at what’s happening here. To see what others growing and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from HA!

 

 

Posted in Food, Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Kitchen Garden in May

Today I thought I would do an update on the area I call the kitchen garden. I call it that because it’s close to the house and with easy access to the kitchen, unlike the main garden area that is at the back of our property and downhill. Walking up and down the hill several times a day is good exercise, but it’s nice to have a few things closer to the house. In that area we have one bed that is about 4 ft by 30 ft, and also the beds around the greenhouse that have about 100 sq.ft of growing space.

lasagna bed

lasagna bed

The free standing bed has mostly onions and potatoes planted this year, but I found room to plant two cages of tomatoes (Sungold and Supersweet 100) down at the far end. This bed is not protected in any way so I have to grow things that the local deer, rabbits and groundhogs won’t eat. Last year the deer did eat some of the potato foliage, so I will have to cover them with netting soon. Right now I have sprayed some deer repellent around the edge of the bed and that has kept them away, but I don’t trust them to stay away forever. I call this bed the lasagna bed, because I made the bed originally using a no-till no-dig layering method. Since then it has been dug and tilled, but the name stuck.

potatoes in lasagna bed

potatoes in lasagna bed

I’ve already hilled some soil up around the potatoes, which are planted in a double row down the length of the bed. I’ll hill them at least one more time, then mulch with the straw. I like to hill them twice because it seems to help keep the weeds down. Of course the straw will help with that too. This year I planted Yukon Gold, German Butterball, Purple Majesty and French Fingerling. All have done well for me in the past. I really like the yellow fleshed potatoes, though the blue ones are nice to add to the mix.

onions in lasagna bed

onions in lasagna bed

I planted the onions in four rows down the length of the bed, with the plants 4 inches apart and each row about a foot apart. The varieties there are Candy, Superstar, Red of Tropea and Red Candy Apple. I also have some Red Marble cipollini onions planted in another bed, along with a mix of leftover plants set close together to be harvested as scallions. I got all these plants from Dixondale Farms, and though I lost a few after planting they generally seem to be doing quite well.

cold frame bed with spinach

cold frame bed with spinach

I call the beds around the greenhouse the cold frame beds, because most of them are protected year round by cold frames. In the winter they provide protection from the cold, and the rest of the year they keep the critters out. For my notes they are numbered and abbreviated CF#1, CF#2, etc. I don’t have a set rotation pattern but I do rotate things so I’m not growing the same veggie in the same bed year after year. Bed #1 currently has a mix of some overwintered Viroflay spinach and spring planted Giant Winter. That’s Viroflay on the left in the above photo. It has so far resisted bolting longer than the other overwintered plants, and I will keep that in mind for future plantings. The leaves are nice and big too.

cold frame bed with lettuce and leaf amaranth

cold frame bed with lettuce and leaf amaranth

Bed #2 has lettuce and Miriah Leaf amaranth planted. The amaranth was planted where overwintered spinach was previously growing, so it is still fairly small. The lettuce plants are sizing up and some are almost ready to harvest. The amaranth is growing fast though and we could harvest a few leaves for salads even now, just a week after setting out the plants. I planted Baby Oakleaf, Simpson Elite and Red Sails lettuce in there.

Baby Oakleaf lettuce

Baby Oakleaf lettuce

This is my first time growing Baby Oakleaf, which is a more compact version of the Green Oakleaf variety. I’ve already harvested plants I grew in a salad box in the greenhouse, and it is a tender, tasty green lettuce for salads. I’m letting these size up a bit more before I start cutting them, since I truly don’t know how big they will get.

cold frame bed with kale and Chinese cabbage

cold frame bed with kale and Chinese cabbage

Bed #3 was where I had overwintered kale planted. All that kale has been pulled up now, and I replanted the bed with both White Russian and Scarlet kale, plus three plants each of Tokyo Bekana and Maruba Santoh. Tokyo Bekana is a non-heading Chinese cabbage that is easier to grow in spring than the heading types, and is similar to the Fun Jen variety. Maruba Santoh is another similar non-heading green that has larger, more rounded leaves than the Tokyo Bekana. I think both kinds are better eaten raw than they are cooked, and they have mild tasting crunchy leaves that are good in salads. The White Russian kale was planted earlier than the Scarlet, and it is big enough to cut at this point, though we’re still eating on the overwintered kale that I pulled.

cold frame bed with cima di rapa and kohlrabi planted

cold frame bed with Cima di Rapa and kohlrabi planted

Bed #4 has kohlrabi and Cima di Rapa (aka rapini, broccoli raab) planted. This is my first time growing cima di rapa in several years, and timing this crop is always challenging for me. Our spring weather heats up fast, and this cool season veggie suffers in the heat. I’ve already harvested the Quarantina variety of the cima di rapa. The non-flowering Maceretese is ready for cutting and we plan on getting our first taste of it tomorrow.

kolibri kohlrabi

kolibri kohlrabi

I’ve got the green Winner kohlrabi and the purple Kolibri planted, and they are sizing up nicely. I usually let these two varieties get about 3″ across before harvesting, though I know they are perhaps more tender when a bit smaller. I am guessing they will be ready in another week or two. I have two more beds planted in carrots, radishes, onions and green garlic. I’ll be back later to talk about those. Until then, Happy Growing!

 

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Getting Local with the Weather

I have always been fascinated by the weather. When I was in grade school, we had a science teacher who had us go out and record the temperature and relative humidity, using a sling psychrometer that we whirled around. Then, my parents got me a weather station one Christmas. It would be crude by today’s standards, but it had an anemometer, an indoor/outdoor thermometer, and a rain gauge. It had wires that ran from the outside to the inside for the thermometers and anemometer, and the rain gauge had to be read manually the old-fashioned way, but I loved it.

CoCoRaHS rain gauge

CoCoRaHS rain gauge

More recently, in 2011 I became a member of the CoCoRaHS network. I did a post on this back in 2012 called Measuring Rain, Hail and Snow. I got tired of never knowing exactly how much rainfall we had received, and I realized I would have to measure it myself if I wanted accurate readings. One of our friends was already a volunteer, so I decided to sign up myself. CocoRaHS volunteers all use the same rain gauge, which can be purchased from WeatherYourWay for about $30. The information collected is used by researchers, scientists, farmers, teachers, and others who are interested in precipitation data.

CoCoRaHS uses low-cost measuring tools and manual methodology, but I knew there were more high-tech solutions out there. I can thank fellow blogger Daphne for that, since she got a Personal Weather Station (PWS) for a birthday gift back in 2010. I was one of those oohing and aahing over it in her comments section, and I guess I’ve had weather station envy ever since. But not any more!

personal weather station outdoor sensor array

personal weather station outdoor sensor array

So after consulting with my wife, last week I decided to get my own PWS. I believe it is the same Davis Instruments Vantage VUE station that Daphne has. The outdoor sensor array is solar-powered, storing power in a capacitor for nighttime operation and has a lithium battery for backup power. It uses wireless transmission to send the data to an indoor unit (weather center console) which displays up to date info on each of the measured variables (temperature, wind speed, rainfall, etc). I mounted the outdoor unit on a wooden 4×4 post that’s part of the main garden fencing, using a metal mounting pole kit. That puts the unit about seven feet above ground, and reasonably far enough away from trees and the house to make for accurate readings.

weather console

weather console

Of course, I wanted to be able to collect the data and store it for future reference, so I needed to link the unit to my PC. For that I got the WeatherLink USB software, which adds an interface module to the console unit that connects to a USB port on your PC. Next, I downloaded a DLL file for the Weatherlink software that allows data to be uploaded to the Weather Underground servers. Now our PWS is a part of their U.S. PWS Network, with the station name of KINNEWBU12. Once that was done, we could download a widget to put on our blog sidebar, and an app/gadget to use on our PCs. Whew! I have to say after all that, I was starting to feel like I was still working in IT.

outdoor unit

outdoor unit

The weather data from our PWS will be collected and stored on both my PC and on the Weather Underground servers. The WU site makes browsing the data pretty easy, and you can look at the raw data as well as various graphs. I know the data will come in handy for gardening as well as for our general use, and it will be nice to know weather conditions in our own backyard, instead of from several miles away.

Posted in Weather | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Weeding, Mulching and Planting

I’ve been taking advantage of the recent stretch of warm and dry weather to get a lot of chores done in the garden. First up was weeding the garlic and brassicas in the main garden. After weeding, I mulched with straw. Sometimes I put down paper first, but that’s impossible with the close spacing on the garlic (6 x 8 inches). We will see how the straw alone does in keeping the weeds out of the brassicas.  After mulching I fertilized both beds with a mix of fish emulsion and seaweed. I also added a product called Biomin Booster 126 that supplies boron, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese and zinc in a bioavailable form. I am adding several nutrients to my usual fertilizing program as a result of the soil tests I did last year.

brassica and garlic beds after mulching

brassica and garlic beds after mulching

The garlic is looking good at this point. I only lost three plants over the winter, out of 200 planted and yes, that’s a lot of garlic! The ones that usually make big bulbs have nice, big stalks. That’s Lorz Italian in the below photo, an artichoke type that always does well here. No signs of scapes yet on the hardenck types. Last year they showed up in late May, so it should be a few weeks more before we get a taste of them.

Lorz Italian garlic

Lorz Italian garlic

In the area near the house I call the kitchen garden I have been keeping the potatoes and onions weeded, though I haven’t mulched them. After I hill the potatoes for the last time I will probably spread some straw on them. As for the onions, I don’t usually mulch them, but perhaps I should rethink that. The mulch works well for the garlic, helping to conserve moisture as well as keep down weeds. I would welcome any comments on the topic from my fellow onion growers out there – to mulch or not to mulch onions, that is the question!

potatoes and onions

potatoes and onions

In the cold frame beds that run along the east side of the greenhouse, I pulled some bolting spinach and the last of the overwintered kale which was also starting to flower. I replanted the area occupied by the spinach with a warm-weather loving green called Miriah Leaf Amaranth. It’s a beautiful plant that could almost double as a coleus at first glance. This is an amaranth grown for its leaves, not the grain. I got the seeds from Adaptive Seeds.

Miriah Leaf Amaranth

Miriah Leaf Amaranth

Where I pulled the kale, I filled in with a few more of the White Russian and Scarlet kale that I had already planted in there. I don’t usually plant kale here until fall, and I’ve never grown these two varieties, so this is really an experiment.  White Russian is a ‘sister’ variety to Red Russian, while Scarlet is a frilly red o/p kale that is comparable to Redbor. I will probably treat these as spring veggies, and pull them once we get a few harvests from them. I doubt that the plants will do much in our summer heat, plus there should be lots of summer veggies to eat then instead of the greens we have been enjoying all winter.

Scarlet kale

Scarlet kale

At the end of the bed that has onions and potatoes in it, I planted a couple of cages of tomatoes. I usually plant a few small fruited types near the house, so we don’t have to walk all the way down to the main garden to have a few tomatoes for salads and such. I planted two of my favorite hybrids, Sungold and Supersweet 100. It will be a couple of weeks before I get any more tomatoes planted in the main garden area. Like I usually do, I set two plants of each variety in my oversized cages, then mulched with newspaper and covered with a little straw.

Supersweet 100 tomato plants

Supersweet 100 tomato plants

One of my chores today was to get a couple more beds in the main garden cleared and ready for planting. I got the bed for bush beans cleaned up and fertilized with my ‘recipe’ of nutrients. I’m adjusting the nitrogen content for each bed, depending on the veggies planted there. Since the beans don’t need much nitrogen (and can make their own) I didn’t use the pelleted chicken manure I use on most of the beds. I’ll plant the beans tomorrow morning. The soil has warmed up nicely, and it was 70°F at a 2″ depth this morning when I checked it. With rain forecast for this weekend, it seems like a great time to get the beans in the ground. I’ll also do some more cleanup and bed prep in the main garden tomorrow, at least until it gets too hot or I run out of steam – whichever comes first!

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Monday Recap: A Busy Month

May is usually one of the busiest gardening months for me, with lots of prep work, planting, weeding and mulching to be done. Last week I started seed for the cucurbits that are going in the main garden area. I prefer to start these in pots or cell flats, which I find makes for better and quicker germination. It also gives me a jump on the growing season. The last few years I have been using Pro-Tray cell flats with 24 cells that I got from Johnny’s. I can get the seeds up and growing for 2-3 weeks, then take the flat right to the garden with me for planting.

cell tray planted with cucurbits

cell tray planted with cucurbits

The greenhouse shelves were already full before I started the cucurbits, and now space is even more limited. I’m using the tops of the cucumber cages to hold extra flats. I can’t leave unprotected flats outside or the deer will eat them for sure. Been there, done that, lost the plants. Some folks just throw bird netting over the seedlings but I think that can damage the leaves when they are young and tender. A cold frame also does a great job of protecting the young plants, but our cold frames are all being used. So I jam all the plants in the greenhouse until it’s time to plant.

flats on top of cucumber cages

flats on top of cucumber cages

Speaking of deer, the local herd usually mows down all the tulips before they get a chance to bloom. This year they missed one red one, and it got to show its colors for us. This is in a bed on one side of our driveway, and the deer have easy access to it as they cross the road. It’s a miracle the tulips have even survived this long. My wife really has the bed looking good, doesn’t she? It will have coneflowers, iris and other perennials blooming later in the season, once the narcissus and tulip are done for.

one red tulip

one red tulip

I got my first harvest of rapini last week. This was from the Cima di Rapa Quarantina variety. I cut the plants back when harvesting and hopefully they will give us another cutting or two before the weather gets too hot. It was a fairly small harvest but enough to give us a taste. I have another non-flowering variety planted called Cima di Rapa Maceratese. I started plants for Sorrento but ran out of planting room this spring.

harvest of Cica di Rapa Quarantina

harvest of Cica di Rapa Quarantina

I cooked up the rapini into a simple dish with potatoes called Rapi e Patate, using this recipe as a guide. I blanched and chopped up the greens first, then browned the cooked Yukon Gold potatoes in a bit of olive oil before adding the rapini and some chopped garlic. The dish was a keeper, and I see more rapini in my future. I didn’t find the greens to be at all bitter, and actually my wife and I both thought they were milder than turnip greens, which we both enjoy eating. Hopefully next time I will have a few more greens to work with.

Rapi e Patate (rapini and potatoes)

Rapi e Patate (rapini and potatoes)

It’s the season for greens here, and the Cima di Rapa is not the only player for sure. I pulled the rest of the True Siberian kale from the greenhouse bed. There was a little over four pounds of it, so we will have plenty of kale for a bit. The overwintered kale was a success in both the greenhouse and the cold frame beds this year, and I am pleased with that. I usually grow kale only in fall, but I planted a dozen or so plants this spring to experiment and see how it does. Our weather usually turns hot quickly, making it dicey with spring cool-season veggies.

harvest of True Siberian kale

harvest of True Siberian kale

Some of that kale went into a dish with the Runner Cannellini beans I cooked up last week. I love beans and greens, and this combo works really well for me. A little balsamic vinegar perks up the flavor.

Runner Cannellini beans with kale

Runner Cannellini beans with kale

I continue to cut the greenhouse lettuce for salads. Last week it was Red Sails. Red lettuces don’t seem to get as red when grown in the greenhouse, but the leaves are usually more tender than those exposed to the elements outside.

Red Sails lettuce

Red Sails lettuce

Another green I’ve been enjoying is spinach. The overwintered Viroflay plants in a cold frame bed have proven to be the longest standing variety this year. Giant Winter was the first to start bolting, with Amsterdam Prickly Seeded next. The Space plants in the greenhouse have also bolted. I have a few new plants I set out on April 11th, a mix of Giant Winter and Viroflay. I could extend the spinach season even further if I spring planted a slower bolting hybrid like Space. I try and have a mix of different veggies to choose from at any given time, and it’s always a balancing act to decide how much to grow of each one.

Viroflay spinach plants

Viroflay spinach plants

The lemongrass stalks I put in water last month are now nicely rooted. I got these for $1.99 a pound at a local grocery, and it surely is an inexpensive way to get lemongrass started. I’ll put a couple of plants in the ground, and we’ll have plenty of lemongrass for tea and other uses. I usually put three or four stalks in each clump or pot, and they will take off in no time. In fall, before the first frost, I’ll dig up a clump and put it in pot for use next winter. If you look closely in the below photo you can see the first new leaf emerging from the base of the stem.

rooted lemongrass stalk

rooted lemongrass stalk

Out in the berry patch, we have a few gooseberries setting on the plants we put out last year. We’ll be lucky to get a handful of berries this year, but in a year or two they should be up to full production.

gooseberries setting on

gooseberries setting on

On the back side of the house, and on the way to the garden we have several dwarf Korean lilac planted. They are blooming now, and the smell is sweetly intoxicating. I have always loved lilacs, and these are more compact than the old-fashioned kind. They are also resistant to the powdery mildew that lilacs often get, at least around here. Another plus is they are deer-resistant, and don’t make suckers.

Dwarf Korean lilac blooms

Dwarf Korean lilac blooms

Last week I mentioned that the new queen bee arrived in her own cage. We checked the hive last Monday, and as expected the queen was out of the cage, so we removed it. The worker bees were busy drawing out honeycomb, and we made our visit brief so as to not disturb them too much. We plan on doing a better inspection either today or tomorrow, where we will look for signs the queen is doing her job and laying eggs.

empty queen cage

empty queen cage

That’s a look at what’s going on around here. To see what others growing and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from HA.

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Featured Cooking Bean: Runner Cannellini

This year I am on a mission to cook and eat as many different varieties of beans as possible. This is another in a series about my observations about those beans.

Growing up, the only dried beans I remember eating were white ones. My mother was a great cook and an adventurous eater, but my dad was picky to say the least. If we had dried beans at all, it was usually either Navy or Great Northern beans in a soup. Our baked beans came from a can, as did kidney beans. The only legume my dad really liked were lima beans, especially the big ones he called ‘butter beans’, and he could eat them almost every meal. I would need to venture out on my own before I discovered the many virtues of dried beans myself. Who knew they were inexpensive, nutritious, and they came in all different colors and shapes?

dried Runner Cannellini beans

dried Runner Cannellini beans

Fast forward more years than I care to count, and my new favorite bean is white. But it’s not like those white beans of my youth. Runner Cannellini is a giant among beans. It’s a variety of Phaseolus coccineus, a species which includes the more widely known Scarlet Runner bean. It’s also kin to the Greek Gigantes and the Italian Corona beans. Despite its name, it is not related to the more common cannellini beans, which are usually a bush variety of P. vulgaris.

Three Bean Salad with Runner Cannellini beans

Three Bean Salad with Runner Cannellini beans

Runner Cannellini beans have a buttery taste and a creamy but firm texture. Some say they taste like lima beans, but I don’t really agree. They are great in side dishes, salads and soups, and are flavorful enough to stand on their own. We recently combined them with Good Mother Stallard and garbanzo beans in a three bean salad, which you can see in the above photo. The beans are huge when cooked, easily tripling in size. Like other large dry beans, I think they benefit from soaking before cooking. Despite their size, I don’t find they take any longer than other beans to cook, at least not if they are fresh. Old beans of any kind usually take longer to cook.

cooked Runner Cannellini beans

cooked Runner Cannellini beans

I love beans served along with greens, and the Runner Cannellini beans are great when they partner with kale. In the below photo, you can see the two served together, with a little bacon crumbled up on top. My wife and I can, and do, make a meal off this dish. I cook the beans and kale separately, then combine in a skillet with some chopped onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes to let the flavors combine. I add a splash of balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper before serving. Italian cooks might add a few peperoncino flakes as well.

Runner Cannellini beans with kale

Runner Cannellini beans with kale

Runner Cannellini, like other runner beans, grows as a vine and is generally trained up poles or some sort of support structure. Will Bonsall, director of the Scatterseed Project, writes that white runner beans require cooler weather than lima beans to really thrive. You can read his article White Runner Beans – the Northern Gardener’s Lima at the MOFGA website. While I have grown the Scarlet Runner beans in the past, I have never grown any of the white flowered/white seeded types.

Runner Cannellini beans for eating are available from several sources, including Rancho Gordo, the Seed Savers Exchange, and Purcell Mountain Farms. You might also find them in a well stocked grocery or gourmet food store. I hope you have enjoyed this review of the Runner Cannellini beans. More bean tasting continues here at HA, and I will be back soon with another bean review.

Posted in Cooking Beans | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments