Ups and Downs in the Garden

It’s always something in the garden. I lost one of the zucchini plants this week. The whole top half of the plant suddenly died off. Some folks will be thinking “squash vine borer” but the dreaded SVB is rarely a problem here and besides, SVB damage is pretty easy to spot. Bacterial wilt is a lot more common, but this wasn’t a case of that either. After examining the stem closely, and finding no evidence of SVBs, it looks like mechanical damage. The stem of the plant was soft and had a rotten smell, but there were no signs of insects or disease. It looks like the stem of the plant split, possibly due to wind, and rot set in. With 7 inches of rain falling last week, conditions were certainly favorable for rot.

dead zucchini plant

dead zucchini plant

Fortunately the rest of the squash plants look good at this point. I haven’t even seen squash bugs yet, though I’m sure they will appear soon.

squash plants

squash plants

Right next door to the dead zucchini plant is the bed where sweet potatoes are growing. This year I decided to interplant some of those with lettuce, and that experiment seems to be going quite well. You can see the crisphead Sierra starting to head up in the below photo. The lettuce should be out before the sweet potato vines take over, and I’ll get two crops in one space. Sweet!

lettuce interplanted with sweet potatoes

lettuce interplanted with sweet potatoes

A few doors down, the broccoli patch is not doing all that great. The Gypsy variety is heading up, but the heads are not exactly the greatest looking I’ve ever grown. As I’ve said before, the fall planting of broccoli usually does much better here.

Gypsy broccoli

Gypsy broccoli

Just a few feet down from them we have the runty plants of the Packman variety. It usually does well here, but not this time. It’s been 70 days since I set out the plants, and we have a little button for a head! We’ll see how it does this fall. Last year Imperial, Diplomat and Green Magic did the best in fall, followed by Packman and Arcadia. I also grow the ‘broccolini’ type Apollo. This year I dropped Arcadia, and I’d like to narrow the field down to two or three varieties that consistently do well here. Next spring I may experiment with an early type like Blue Wind.

Packman broccoli

Packman broccoli

Nearby the broccoli are the bush beans. Last year I thought I had a problem with striped bean/cucumber beetles. I now know they are pigweed flea beetles, and they actually don’t do any damage to beans or cucumbers, though they love amaranth. They are also very picky about which plants they do eat. In the below photo they have reduced one of the pigweeds to lace, but the lamb’s quarters (and bean plant) next to it is untouched! Too bad we don’t have a bug that feeds on Bermuda grass, or some of our other favorite weeds!

damage from pigweed flea beetles

damage from pigweed flea beetles

Speaking of bugs, the Japanese beetles have arrived right on schedule. One favorite hangout is the top level of the pole beans, which they seem to use as a speed dating site. I’ll have to start my daily trips out there with a container of soapy water. The pole beans are starting to bloom, which is a welcome sight.

Japanese beetles on pole beans

Japanese beetles on pole beans

Also pretty much on schedule, the eggplants are blooming and starting to set fruit. That’s the Millionaire variety in the below photo.

Millionaire eggplant

Millionaire eggplant

I’ll close with something else that’s sweet, figuratively speaking. Many of the hostas are blooming now. I regularly spray Liquid Fence deer repellent on the hostas to keep the deer from eating them up. They really love to eat the blooms, and they seldom last very long before they are eaten up. That’s the huge Big Daddy variety blooming in the below photo. It and several other hostas are planted around the base of our giant mulberry tree.

Big Daddy hosta blooming

Big Daddy hosta blooming

That’s it for now. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from HA. And if you are a gardener, I hope your garden is giving you more ups than downs!

 

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Monday Recap: Billed Out, But Inspired

The remnants of Tropical Depression Bill visited us on Friday and Saturday, giving us four inches of rain in a 24-hour period. That came on top of 2.5 inches we had earlier in the week. The month of June actually started off dry here, but we have certainly caught up on our precipitation, and then some! Thankfully the rain came down fairly gently, and our silty soil was able to absorb most of it without a lot of runoff. I am guessing folks with our area’s more typical clay soils had water standing in their gardens and yards.

the rain from Bill

the rain from Bill

Of course the rain is making things grow like crazy, including the cucumbers. I harvested the first ones of the year last week. They were quickly followed by several more, until I had enough to make a batch of refrigerator pickles. In the below photo, two Green Fingers cucumbers from the main garden are joined by a Corinto from the greenhouse. The vines are loaded with baby cukes, so we will be enjoying more of them in the days to come, and no doubt sharing some of them with friends as well.

trio of cucumbers

trio of cucumbers

I also harvested the first squash and broccoli of the year. Those happened to be yellow squash, and I harvested from all three of the yellow varieties I planted this year (Gentry, Enterprise and Multipik). The first broccoli was from Goliath, though in this case the head I harvested was not all that big. I don’t have high expectations for the spring broccoli this year. We had extremely hot weather a bit earlier than usual this spring, and it has pretty much stayed hot ever since. That is typical around here, and broccoli usually does much better in fall. I’m always thankful for any spring broccoli I get. The squash and broccoli are hanging out with another Corinto cucumber in the below photo.

first yellow squash and broccoli of 2015

first yellow squash and broccoli of 2015

I had plans for the squash, and I also needed some onions for my plan so I pulled a Red Torpedo Tropea that was sizing up nicely plus a few of the ones I planted for scallions.

onion harvest

onion harvest

My plan for the squash and onions was to make the Zucchini, Onion and Ricotta Pie that Michelle made a couple of weeks ago. I made mine with the yellow squash I had on hand, plus the white onions in the above photo. I also chopped up a few garlic scapes and some fresh parsley and added a little crushed and minced garlic. This dish comes together pretty quickly and made a great dinner meal for us one night, along with some steamed broccoli. The leftover pie tasted even better the next day, and I can see making this versatile recipe again when more of the summer veggies start rolling in. Some lovely eggs from local pastured chickens gave the pie a nice golden color.

Squash, Onion and Ricotta Pie

Squash, Onion and Ricotta Pie

I was also inspired this week to make a gooseberry pie. I’ve been hungry for some ever since last July when Daphne made a couple of beautiful pies to take to a 4th of July party. I decided to make a double pie crust using some soft white whole wheat flour and use it to make my favorite gooseberry pie recipe, straight from my well-worn and vintage Betty Crocker cookbook. I loved the gooseberries, but I thought the crust was a bit chewy. My wife loved the crust, though it was difficult to make the lattice top with it. It wasn’t my prettiest pie but it all disappeared over the course of several days. Next time I want to try a gooseberry cobbler. I pretty much used up all of this year’s crop, so I will have to wait until next year for that.

gooseberry pie

gooseberry pie

Another inspiration came from Norma, who told us a couple of weeks ago how she used kohlrabi and marinated tofu (along with other goodies) in a stir fry dish. I skipped the meat, and added some April Cross daikon radish, yellow squash, mushrooms and chopped garlic scapes to my creation. I marinated the tofu in a mix of soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey and sesame, along with a crushed dried Aji Angelo pepper to add a tiny touch of heat. After marinating and removing the tofu, I added a bit of water and cornstarch to the marinade and used it to make a sauce. I also took her suggestion and served it on lettuce, skipping the usual rice. It’s a yummy way to prepare the kohlrabi and other veggies.

stir fry with kohlrabi and other veggies

stir fry with kohlrabi and other veggies

With plenty of warning that Bill was coming our way with lots of rain, I dug more garlic before the soil got any more moisture. This time I harvested the rest of the turban varieties (Shilla, Uzbek and Xian), plus three of the artichoke varieties that were ready (Inchelium Red, Siciliano, and Lorz Italian). Most gardeners, me included, plant the largest cloves of garlic because they tend to make the biggest bulbs. But occasionally those large cloves are “double cloves”, which will produce two bulbs. I had two of the Lorz Italian plants that did just that, including the one in the below photo. I don’t normally wash the bulbs before curing, but I did this one so you could see how the two bulbs were growing.

double bulb of Lorz Italian garlic

double bulb of Lorz Italian garlic

I usually get a few of the double bulbs, so that wasn’t a big surprise but this year I also got a triple from Inchelium Red. Commercial growers usually try and avoid planting double cloves because the resulting bulbs can be hard to sell, though it’s no big deal for most home gardeners. You can see how wet the soil was in the below photo, and that was before Bill came through!

triple bulbs of Inchelium Red garlic

triple bulbs of Inchelium Red garlic

For me, the main appeal of growing garlic is in the bulbs and the scapes. But for our cat Puddin, the real attraction is in the leaves. Every time I drag bunches of garlic through the house (and she is awake) she wants to bite and play with the foliage. I think she gets more excited about the garlic than she does when I bring her catnip! She’s got a wild look in her eyes but she’s really a big sweetie.

Puddin chewing on garlic

Puddin chewing on garlic

I’m continuing in my quest to eat as many different types of dry beans as possible. Last week I cooked up some Rio Zape beans, and I can see them starring in future meals. These beans have a wonderful, rich taste, and I could easily sit down and eat a bowl of them all by themselves. Some of these wound up getting refried, and others wound up in a Rio Zape Beans and Sweet Potatoes salad we had for dinner last night.

Rio Zape beans before cooking

Rio Zape beans before cooking

The salad also featured some of our roasted orange and purple sweet potatoes, topped with some fried sage leaves from the garden and toasted pine nuts. I served the salad at room temperature, and it tasted a lot better than the below photo looks. My wife declared it a ‘home run”, a metaphor that is as close to baseball as either one of us ever gets!

Rio Zape Beans and Sweet Potatoes

Rio Zape Beans and Sweet Potatoes

That’s a look at what’s going on here lately. To see what other gardeners are showing off and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from HA.

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Saturday Spotlight: Kolibri Kohlrabi

If there was a contest for least-appreciated vegetable, I would nominate kohlrabi. Many people don’t even know what it is, much less what to do with it. Around here it is not often found in grocery stores, though I do sometimes find it in an Asian market where I shop. It doesn’t get a lot of space in seed catalogs either, unlike the more popular tomatoes or sweet corn. However, I happen to be a big fan of kohlrabi, and have been for a long time. Kolibri is a purple-skinned hybrid kohlrabi that I’ve grown for several years now, and it’s the variety I want to spotlight today.

Kolibri kohlrabi

Kolibri kohlrabi

In the home garden, I find Kolibri to be quite easy to grow. To get a jump on the harvest, I start the seeds indoors, and then set out transplants when they are about three weeks old. Seed can also be sown in place where the plants are to grow. I like to space the plants about six inches apart in a bed, or four inches apart if grown in rows at least a foot apart. Square foot gardeners usually plant four to a square. Kohlrabi likes a rich fertile soil and ample moisture while growing in order to produce well. It is bothered by the same pests as other brassicas, chiefly the cabbage moth caterpillar that feeds on the foliage. Slugs can also feed on the skin, though the damage is superficial.

Kolibri kohlrabi

Kolibri kohlrabi

Kolibri is faster maturing than most open-pollinated varieties, and this year I started harvesting the first ones about six weeks after setting them out. Both Johnny’s and Fedco list Kolibri as taking 45 days to maturity, while Pinetree has it at 43 days. I usually let them get to the size of a tennis ball or a bit larger. The tender, crisp flesh of Kolibri doesn’t get woody or tough for me even on the larger ones. The ones in the below photo ranged from 6 to 10 ounces each after trimming off the leaves, and the largest one was just as tasty as the smallest.

harvest of Kolibri kohlrabi

harvest of Kolibri kohlrabi

The name kohlrabi is German for ‘cabbage turnip’, though it really doesn’t resemble either vegetable. It’s often thought of as a root vegetable, but the part we eat is really the swollen stem of the plant. Unlike root vegetables like turnips, kohlrabi leaves grow from all around the swollen stem, as you can see in the above photo. The leaves themselves are edible if they are picked while young and tender. Underneath the purple skin, the flesh of Kolibri is ivory white and nearly fiberless.

inside of Kolibri kohlrabi

inside of Kolibri kohlrabi

And despite being named after cabbage and turnips, to me the taste is mild but sweeter than cabbage, more like a jicama or a baby turnip. I enjoy Kolibri both raw and cooked. The raw flesh is crisp and works well in salads or for things like my Asian Kohl-Slaw. For a real treat, try oven roasting some, which really sweetens and mellows the flavor. It’s also good in stir-fries, soups, and even mashed or pureed like potatoes and turnips.

In the U.S. seed for Kolibri is widely available from a number of sources. I hope you have enjoyed this spotlight on great variety of a vegetable that isn’t exactly well known. I’ll be back soon with another variety.

To see my other Saturday Spotlights, visit the Variety Spotlights page.

 

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Asparagus Bed Cleanup Plus Q&A

My wife and I just finished cleaning up and mulching the asparagus beds and I thought it was a good time to talk about how we grow asparagus. It is a popular but sometimes challenging vegetable for most gardeners to grow, and we often get questions about it. Questions like “how long do you harvest?” (usually for eight weeks) or “how long has it been planted?” (since 2007).

Folks also want to know what varieties we planted. We have one row each of Jersey Giant, Jersey Knight, and Jersey Supreme. All three are hybrids developed by the Rutgers Asparagus Breeding program. I have not really seen significant differences in how the three perform here.

And how long are those rows? They are 30 feet long, and 4 feet apart. How did I plant them? After roto-tilling the soil, I dug a shallow trench about six to eight inches deep, planted the crowns with roots spread out in all directions, and then covered with a little soil. I gradually filled in the trench as the spears started coming up, and I kept them well watered during that first year.

me planting asparagus in 2007

me planting asparagus in 2007

I always tell people that if you like to eat asparagus, planting it is an investment with great returns. A well-tended bed can bear for 25 or more years. We took small harvests from ours in 2009 and 2010, and then began harvesting for eight weeks in 2011. Our total harvested from the beds is now 165 pounds, including the 35 pounds we got this year. It is safe to say the plants have paid for themselves by now – and then some!

Once the plants are established, weed management is probably the biggest challenge. This year my wife got out before the spears started emerging and cut down the dead foliage from last year. This can be done any time after the foliage is thoroughly brown and dry, from late winter until early spring. Then she weeded the beds and mulched between the rows with a layer of cardboard covered with straw. We have also used newspaper in the past, though cardboard seems to do a better job of keeping down the weeds. Our experiment with landscape cloth did not work very well, as weeds came up through it too easily and getting them out was difficult. She also likes to spread shredded paper or newspaper down the rows where the spears come up. That’s the hardest part to keep weeded.

looking down the asparagus row

looking down the asparagus row

After the eight week harvest window, we weed and mulch the beds as soon as possible, which this year was a couple of weeks ago. Then we let the new spears grow into the ferns that will grow until freezing weather arrives, replenishing the roots and crowns for next year’s crop. As you can see in the below photo, we still need to weed a bit between the rows, and then add more straw. Once the ferns fill out, the foliage will form a canopy that will shade the beds and help keep down weeds.

asparagus bed after mulching

asparagus bed after mulching

Another question I often get is about fertilizing asparagus, which I do once a year. The general advice is either to do it in early spring before the spears emerge, or after the harvest is finished for the year. This year I applied the fertilizer in June as we were weeding and mulching the beds. I spread it down the center of each row where the crowns are located.

And how much fertilizer do you need to use? Of course that sort of depends on the type of soil you have and its fertility. The advice I have seen, including this bulletin from the University of Missouri Extension, generally says to add between .1 and .15 pounds of nitrogen annually per 100 square feet of growing area. Since our beds are about 360 square feet that would mean between .36 and .54 actual N. Asparagus also needs moderate amounts of phosphorus and potassium for good results, and since I know our soil is low in those two nutrients, I used a fertilizer mix that supplied NPK plus I added kelp meal for its many micro-nutrients.

asparagus ferns leafing out

asparagus ferns leafing out

The only real pest problem we have had with asparagus over the years is the asparagus beetle. Both the adults and their larvae feed on the spears and ferns. They can be controlled with hand picking the adults or with a pyrethrin spray if the outbreak is really bad. But we did something different this year that really helped with that problem. In past years we harvested only spears that were larger than 1/4 inch in diameter, at least as big around as a pencil. We left the smaller spears. This year we followed advice to cut all spears regardless of size. This had the benefit of keeping down the beetles, since they had very little to feed on during the harvest season when they are typically a problem. I’ll monitor the foliage throughout the summer to make sure they don’t get out of control then.

Asparagus is a delicious and nutritious perennial vegetable, and its tender spears are often one of the first harvests each spring. If you are thinking about growing it, a little planning and annual effort can lead to a crop that will keep on feeding you for years to come. I hope you have found this information useful, and I’ll be back soon with more happenings here at HA.

For more information about growing asparagus:

Growing Asparagus In The Home Garden (OSU)

How To Grow Asparagus (Rodale’s Organic Life)

All About Growing Asparagus (Mother Earth News)

 

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Monday Recap: Crunchy and Seeded

Lots of crunchy vegetables are coming in right now. Like the April Cross daikon radishes. I’ll probably ferment some of those in the below photo for crunchy pickles. A little bit of them went on a salad yesterday, and I also plan to use some in a stir-fry. The one on the left was hard to dig up and the root end of it snapped off and was left in the ground. The soil is getting dry and I should have soaked it first to make digging easier. The three radishes weighed a little over two pounds.

April Cross radishes

April Cross radishes

Speaking of fermented radishes, I’ve been enjoying the batch I did a couple of weeks ago. The pink and purple from the radishes turned the brine from clear to pinkish, and then made the radishes themselves pink. They have a nice, salty crunch to them and a mildly fermented flavor that will get better as they age. At least until they are gone, which may be soon if I keep on eating them!

lacto-fermented radishes

lacto-fermented radishes

Another crunchy vegetable we’ve been enjoying is kohlrabi. That’s the green skinned Winner along with the purple Kolibri in the below photo, along with a couple of the Starburst watermelon radishes on the right. My wife roasted some of the Kolibri one night and it was delicious (but camera shy).

kohlrabi and radishes

kohlrabi and radishes

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making crackers again, so last week I baked up a batch of King Arthur’s Crunchy Crackers. They are indeed crunchy, as well as seeded with sunflower, flax and sesame seeds. This particular recipe uses about 50% white whole wheat, and included yeast for leavening. The dough is rolled out thin, then the seeds are sprinkled on and pressed in with a rolling pin. I also want to try other whole grain cracker recipes without leavening, and ultimately make some using whole grain spelt flour. These are disappearing faster than the radishes though, and I like to spread a little garlic scape pesto on them for a snack.

Crunchy Crackers

Crunchy Crackers

Speaking of seeded, I went ahead and planted the tepary beans. I decided to try a test planting of two varieties, Sacaton Brown and Blue Speckled. I’m using a remesh tomato cage to give the Blue Speckled support, and I’ll put up a trellis for the Sacaton Brown.

Blue Speckled Tepary Bean

Blue Speckled Tepary Bean

In other news, blueberries are ripening now. Last year the season lasted from mid-June until early August. My wife is in charge of harvesting these, and she barely got to rest up from her daily cutting of asparagus until the blueberries started rolling in.

blueberry harvest

blueberry harvest

The blueberries are joining the raspberries every morning on our Homemade Dry Toasted Muesli. I am harvesting the raspberries, which won’t go on nearly as long as the blueberry season. That’s my breakfast most mornings, muesli soaked in a little almond or coconut milk and topped with lots of fresh fruit.

homemade muesli topped with fresh fruit

homemade muesli topped with fresh fruit

A few of the earliest maturing garlic varieties have started flopping over, so I dug one to see how it was doing. I wound up digging all of two turban varieties, Red Janice and Maiskij. That’s Red Janice in the below photo, which has been a big producer here since I first planted it back in 2011. Based on how these two are doing, I will no doubt be digging more of the early types soon.

harvest of Red Janice garlic

harvest of Red Janice garlic

I also pulled up a few carrots to see how they are doing. Unlike the garlic they are not quite ready yet, at least not the Mokum or Purple Haze you can see in the below photo. They were edible though, and went on salads we had yesterday. Of course this is what baby carrots REALLY look like, not those awful things that pass for baby carrots in the grocery.

not quite ready for prime time carrots

not quite ready for prime time carrots

Fortunately there was a lot more lettuce than there were carrots for the salad! I’ve done a pretty decent job of planting lettuce periodically, and we have had plenty of it for the last couple of months. What’s planted now has to deal with the heat, so it will be mainly crisphead varieties plus something like Slobolt which usually does well this time of year. That’s Red Sails in the below photo, not colored up real well but still tasty. And it’s hanging out in a small Cesto Tubtrug, which is what I’ve been using for a harvest basket lately.

Red Sails lettuce

Red Sails lettuce

On a sad note, a male House Sparrow trashed all the bluebird eggs from the nest last Thursday. He pecked them out and dropped them near the base of the support pole. Hopefully the bluebirds will be willing to give it another try this year. We will see. At least they didn’t kill live babies, which I have seen the house sparrows do on more than one occasion.

bluebird eggs destroyed by House Sparrow

bluebird eggs destroyed by House Sparrow

I’ll close with happier news. Last month I said we would get ‘a handful’ of gooseberries. They must have been hiding from me back then, because when I started picking them yesterday the little bushes were loaded with berries. I wound up with over 1.5 pounds of them, enough for a pie and then some! They are a mix of Amish Red, Captivator and Hinnomaki Red. I tasted them all and while they each have a slightly different flavor, I can’t say which I prefer just yet. I also planted Invicta this year since it gets good marks from Daphne. For cooking I like to use mostly green berries, with a few pinkish ones mixed in. A few of these got really ripe so I will pick them out and eat them raw or else mix them with the currants which are also about ready to harvest.

gooseberries

gooseberries

To see what other gardeners are showing off and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from HA.

 

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Featured Cooking Bean: Brown Tepary

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.

Imagine there was a bean that was drought tolerant and higher in protein and fiber than many other beans. And, what if it came in different varieties that are suited to growing in most any climate? While we’re at it, let’s make it tasty and versatile in the kitchen. You would think if there were a bean like that it would be widely known and grown, wouldn’t you? Well, a bean like that already exists, and there’s archeological evidence it was grown thousands of years ago. It’s called a tepary bean, and it is making somewhat of a comeback here in the 21st century.

Brown Tepary beans

Brown Tepary beans

The tepary bean, Phaseolus acutifolius, is native to the U.S. southwest and Mexico. According to legend, the bean got its name when Spanish explorers to what is now New Mexico asked a group of Tohono O’odham people what they were planting. They replied “T’pawi,” meaning literally “It’s a bean.” According to Mother Earth News, the tepary beans have traditionally been planted as both a spring and summer crop, depending on the monsoon rains to give them moisture to germinate and grow.

Brown Tepary beans

Brown Tepary beans

Until fairly recently I had never even tasted a tepary bean. That changed when I cooked up a batch of Brown Tepary beans from Rancho Gordo. I used a pressure cooker to cook them, without soaking first. I cooked them for 18 minutes at high pressure, and let them sit while the pressure released naturally. As you can in the below photo, they held their shape well, staying firm but tender. What you can’t see is how they tasted. The Brown Tepary beans have a rich, complex taste that has a touch of sweetness to it. The sweetness is supposed to be more noticeable in the white varieties.

cooked Brown Tepary beans

cooked Brown Tepary beans

They are so tasty that the Brown and the White Tepary beans are listed on the Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste. Slow Food describes their flavor as ‘rich and nutty’, and says they are used in traditional southwestern soups, stews and casseroles. In the book Heirloom Beans there are several recipes for tepary beans, including one I plan on trying called Spicy Tepary Bean Dip.

refried Brown Tepary beans

refried Brown Tepary beans

Once cooked, I turned the whole batch into refried beans. To do that, I heated a little olive oil in a skillet then sautéed chopped onions until they were soft. Next I added the tepary beans along with a bit of their cooking liquid, plus some minced garlic, ground cumin and salt. I cooked the beans for about 15-20 minutes, stirring and mashing with the back of a wooden spoon until they were somewhat smooth but still chunky. The above photo does not really do them justice.

tepary bean tostadas

tepary bean tostadas

Some of those refried beans went on tostadas we made. The refried tepary beans have a great flavor and texture, and compared to refried beans made with pinto beans they also have more protein, fiber and minerals. I was so impressed after that first encounter, I knew I had to have more of them, and I knew I had to make them one of my featured cooking beans.

After a little more research I also decided to make a small test planting in the garden. The variety I’m going to grow is called Sacaton Brown. I got those seeds from Native Seeds/SEARCH, and they have a great selection of over 20 varieties of tepary bean seeds. We’ll see how they handle the hot and humid summer weather we usually have here. I also want to try a variety called Blue Speckled. I will be sure and report on how they perform here in the garden.

Brown Tepary beans for eating are available online from Rancho Gordo, Ramona Farms, and Native Seeds/SEARCH. I hope you have enjoyed this review of the Brown Tepary beans. More bean tasting continues here at HA, and I will be back soon with another bean review.

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Monday Recap: June Swoon

Here at Happy Acres we are swooning about cherries. Well, we are excited about them, but not to the point of fainting. Last week my wife and I made what has become our annual pilgrimage to Farview Orchards to pick sweet and tart cherries. Last year we went about a week later, but this year the cherries were ready earlier and we went while the trees were still loaded. We came back with somewhere over 35 pounds of them, which is a lot of cherries! After pitting, we mix them up with sugar (and Fruit Fresh) until it dissolves and makes a little syrup, then freeze them. The sugar helps preserve the cherries, and when we thaw them for use we drain it off. We spent about 1.5 hours picking the cherries, and another 2.5 hours washing, pitting and processing them for freezing.

sweet cherries before pitting

sweet cherries before pitting

While cherries were coming in, the asparagus was going out. Last Monday was the final ‘official’ harvest of the year. We did chop down a few spears later in the week when we weeded and mulched the beds, and they got added in to the totals. I also applied fertilizer to the beds before we mulched them with straw. The final total for the year was 35 pounds. I can think of very few garden plants that give so much for a relatively small investment of time and money.

final asparagus harvest of 2015

final asparagus harvest of 2015

In other news, since we have a number of radishes coming in, I decided to ferment some of them. I used a mix of Helios, Plum Purple and a watermelon type called Starburst. I sliced some, and cut others into a wedge shape. I packed the radishes in a clean glass jar,along with a few cloves of garlic, and added a brine solution. I started tasting them after a couple of days, and when they taste ‘done’ enough for me I will put them in the refrigerator. I have some daikon radishes that are still sizing up and when they get bigger I will likely ferment some of them too. I’m also looking forward to fermenting some of the kohlrabi later on. I usually just eat them as a snack, and my gut loves them.

radishes for fermenting

radishes for fermenting

We’re getting a steady but manageable harvest of red raspberries now. I’ve been enjoying them for breakfast, at least those that make it in the house. These are a mix of Caroline and Autumn Bliss. I say ‘mix’ because the canes have grown every which way in the bed and I can’t tell one from the other! Not that it really matters, since they both are tasty and productive.

raspberry harvest

raspberry harvest

The blackberries continue to bloom, even as the earlier blossoms are forming berries. The Natchez variety has somewhat elongated fruit, and they are starting to size up. Apache and Natchez usually start ripening in July around here, though a few were ready by late June last year.

young Natchez blackberries

young Natchez blackberries

Blueberries will be ripe long before the blackberries. The below photo shows Chandler starting to turn blue. It’s one of our favorite blueberry varieties, with large and flavorful berries. That’s another reason for me to get excited.

Chandler blueberries starting to ripen

Chandler blueberries starting to ripen

Some of the leftover onion plants I set out for scallions are starting to bulb up. That’s a good sign, since it means the other plants are doing the same. I am hoping this will be a good year for onions, since I think I have finally selected some good varieties for our area. The scallions are all mixed up too, but I think the ones in the below photo must be Super Star (aka Sierra Blanca). They went in a quinoa and black bean dish my wife made last week. I guess they are really young onions at this point and not scallions any more.

young onions

young onions

Readers may get tired of seeing photos of Simpson Elite lettuce, but I never get tired of eating it. This lettuce holds up to our late spring heat and rarely gets bitter or tough, at least not in the partially sheltered environment I give it where it is shaded from the afternoon sun.

Simpson Elite lettuce

Simpson Elite lettuce

I got the sweet potatoes planted last week. Before planting I amended the soil, then formed a ridge with the loosened soil. I set the slips 18 inches apart, then interplanted  lettuce seedlings between the slips. The sweet potato varieties I’m growing this year are Beauregard, Purple and Bonita. I have 28 plants total of those three. I didn’t set out that many lettuce plants though. I wanted to compare some of the crisphead types, so I set about a dozen total of Sierra, Cardinale and Unicum. I also planted a few of the Brown Goldring, which is a romaine type. The lettuce plants should be harvested before the sweet potatoes start vining, and I thank Norma for the idea of interplanting.

sweet potatoes with lettuce interplanted

sweet potatoes with lettuce interplanted

After hosting some nesting chickadees earlier this spring, one of our PVC nest boxes is now being used by a pair of bluebirds. I heard the male out singing almost every day for over a week, and I guess his efforts paid off. Here’s a YouTube selection of what the male sounds like, often described as a chortle. Once they decided on using the box, they didn’t waste any time because the female built the nest in a day. She has laid 2 eggs as of yesterday morning.

bluebird nest with 2 eggs

bluebird nest with 2 eggs

I hope you have enjoyed this look at what’s happening here in early June. To see what other gardeners are showing off and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays. And thanks to Daphne for hosting this every week!

 

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