More beans than you can shake a stick at

Over the past few weeks, warmish temperatures and a steady dose of rain have helped our beans — bush beans, pole beans, and string beans — proliferate like mad! The beans have been growing far faster than we could ever eat them, and this past weekend, we found ourselves with a definite surplus.

This was our most recent harvest – a nice selection of purple and wax string beans, along with hearty Rattlesnake pole beans (the large green ones with the red streaks). Oh, and also a couple cherry tomatoes for good measure. 🙂

We also made our first harvest of shelling beans!

A couple varieties, still in their pods.

These turned out to be Tiger Eye beans (a bush variety) and Fort Portal Jade (a pole variety).

On the left are the extremely pretty and green Fort Portal beans – dried at top and raw at the bottom. On the right are the Tiger Eyes – raw ones at the top and dried ones, with their distinct maroon markings on gold, at the bottom. The ones in the middle are also Tiger Eyes, but they turned out all maroon for whatever reason.

While there are more Fort Portal beans to come, it looks like the Tiger Eye plants have had their say. As with beans, they might be done, or they might re-blossom later in the summer.

But, back to the busload of string beans. A much as we’ve been enjoying them simply steamed with dinner, we decided to do something a little different this past weekend, and make them into a light and delicious salad. We regularly make a Three-Bean Salad, but we wanted something a little different, so we turned to our trust Betty Crocker recipe book and found a little inspiration in the form of a “Tangy Vegetable Salad.” But we didn’t have everything on hand for that particular recipe, so we improvised. Here’s our version, which we’ll call “Simple Vegetable Salad (That’s Mostly String Beans).”


Simple Vegetable Salad (That’s Mostly String Beans)

Ingredients
  • 2-3 cups of coarsely chopped fresh string beans
  • approximately 1/2 cup (or so) each of chopped onion, carrots, peppers, and squash (we used a red pepper and summer squash, but any varieties could work)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Instructions

1. Gather all vegetables together; gather together ingredients for dressing.

Veggies, check.
Dressing ingredients, check.

2. Boil a little water (about 1/2 cup or so) in a large saucepan, and dump in the vegetables. Cook in boiling water for five minutes.

So pretty. It’s a little sad that the purple beans have to turn green when cooked.

3. After five minutes, drain the vegetable and rinse with cool water. Set aside.

See…no purple. Still delicious, though.

4. Place dressing ingredients into a small screw-top jar and shake vigorously to combine.

More shaking needed…

5. Place drained vegetables in a large bowl and pour over dressing. Stir gently, cover bowl, then place bowl in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Delish!

5. While salad is chilling, stir occasionally until ready to serve. When serving, use a slotted spoon.


This is an excellent summer salad – light, filling, and refreshing. And it’s super quick to make! (Who wants to turn on the oven in 100 degree heat, anyway?!) One thing to note is that you could also used white wine or red wine vinegar for the dressing. And really, you could use just about any combination of vegetables. The original recipe called for cauliflower and the addition of sliced olives at the end. But our results turned out to be simply delicious. And that’s what’s important. 🙂

 

 

 

 

When a tree falls in the woods…

…and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?

That’s how the old philosophical question goes. But whether or not it makes a sound, the tree still falls, and that’s what matters. Only in our case, it was just a branch. That fell. Okay, maybe we need to go back to the beginning. (It’s not a very long journey.)

Friday evening after dinner, we gazed out upon the garden as we often do. It was then that we noticed something out of the ordinary. Basically, it looked as if a tree had unknowingly sprouted, full-sized, from the back bushes – where we have a small flowering tree that’s been overtaken by honeysuckle and pokeweed. Upon further gazing, we saw that it wasn’t a tree at all, but a huge branch from the adjacent tree, and it was completely covering our back barrels of tomatoes.

Oh dear.

We quickly set in motion. Upon finding shoes and heading out back, we pulled the giant branch away and onto the lawn. Fearing the worst, amazingly, we actually got the best for which we could hope. None of the tomatoes were severely damaged. Whew! The bulk of the branch, which was a good two feet around at its base, had fallen into the bushes. Three tomatoes plants on the end were most affected, having been covered by the branch’s zillion small, leafy branches, had been saved by their cages, one of which we tried out best to hammer back into a circular shape.

Of course, during the mess, no one thought to take a picture. Phooey. Then again, when saving plants, taking pictures is the last one’s worries.

We did manage to take a picture of what remained of the branch after being stripped of all other branches. It looks much less impressive in this state.

Anyway, much of the weekend was spent dealing with the large branch, stripping it of it’s small branches, whittling it down into pieces that could be easily disposed of, as well as trying to figure out why it had come down, and if any other branches were in danger of falling.  As of today, we’re so far, so good. Nothing else has fallen. And terms of the branch falling in the first place, the only thing we figure is that it might have been due to a squirrel’s nest that had been nestled at the base of the branch. Maybe it had allowed for excess moisture to seep into the joint, which gradually weakened it. Since the branch came down, we’ve only seen one of the pair of squirrels that we usually see. There was nothing in the remnants of the squirrel’s nest that was still attached to the branch, so we’re not sure what happened.

Meanwhile in the garden generally, everything else is just coming along like plants do. We’re still harvesting bunches of tasty string beans. And we also got our first cucumber of the year! Mmmm. There’s nothing quite like garden-fresh cucumbers. It remains to be seen if we’ll get enough of them for pickling. In addition to the one that we picked, a few more were growing nicely. It’ll probably be another week or so still before they’re ready to harvest.

Thankfully, none of the trees in our yard cover the garden proper, but still, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that all the branches on all the trees stay put. That single large branch caused enough excitement for the rest of the summer!

 

The last of what we have to say about beans and squash

If you’re just joining us, welcome to our blog about beans and squash! Haha, okay…we’re joking. But seriously, if anyone looks at our posts from the past year, one might think that’s about all we grow. It’s not, but beans and squash are about the only things that truly proliferated in our garden this year. So it seems fitting that, as we approach the end of the season, we should at least pay one final tribute to the beans and squash that are going to keep our bellies full this winter.

But before we get to that, we have to point out a statement we made in last week’s post in which we discussed the year’s first frost. (Things didn’t actually frost over, but we came very close.) In that post we said the following:

So it seems our hopes for a warm October probably won’t happen.

Well, it seems Mother Nature just might have taken pity on our poor, poor garden, for it looks like we’ve ventured into an Indian Summer! Yep, the past couple days have been unseasonably warm with daytime temps reaching into the 80s. And it looks like the trend is going to continue until the weekend. (Good thing we haven’t yet made the switch over to winter clothes!) So the roller-coaster of a year in weather just keeps going and going. Now, five days of warm weather isn’t suddenly going to make all our tomatoes ripen, but it might do something good. We’ll do another (and final) roundup of pictures next week, so we’ll see what happens.

Meanwhile, back inside, we’ve been slowing watching our collections of Long Pie Pumpkins turn from green to bright orange.

035squash

Sorry that the picture is a little dark. In the light, these guys nearly match our kitchen’s orange walls! The one at the top has ripened the most, so it’s very possible it’ll become a Thanksgiving (or sooner!) pie. You might be wondering about that green squash in the upper corner. Well, we are too! With an unintentionally large crop of traditional zucchini this year, we’ve been paying close attention to the zucchini versus the Long Pies, which look remarkably similar. The way to tell the two apart is that the Long Pies, on the vine, develop a bright orange spot on their undersides. At that point you pick them and let them ripen indoors. When we picked this dark green squash just a week ago, we were pretty sure it was a zucchini. It did have a slightly unripened, yellowish spot on it’s underside, but it wasn’t bright orange. Well, over the past week, that yellow spot has turned more orange than not. If this is a zucchini, the yellow spot should have begun to turn a little green by now (with the whole squash going completely dark green in a couple weeks). As we already mistook one zucchini for a Long Pie earlier in the year, we don’t want to make the same mistake twice. So for now, we’re just keep an eye on it.

As for beans, well, the pole beans haven’t been showing any signs of stopping in the cooler weather. We came away with this haul over the weekend.

035beans1

That’s a variety of pole beans on the left and Christmas Lima Bean pods on the right. After shelling everything, we have yet another pan of drying beans.

035beasn2

The lima bean pods always look more promising than they are, as each pod  generally only holds one to two beans. As for the pole beans, we didn’t get nearly as many as we first thought because some of the pods/beans had gone moldy. Makes sense considering how cool and damp its been until this week. We’ll be doing another bean harvest over the weekend, so we’ll see how things fare after the warm week.

So our bean collection this year is looking pretty good.

035beans3

We’ve got a nice big bag of sorted beans, and more that need to be sorted. We’ll be transferring these into canning jars soon so that we can easily store them into the winter. No doubt, we’ll be enjoying some multi-bean soup in the coming months! (And, of course, we’ve set aside a good complement of seed beans to plant next year.) Hmmm…squash and bean soup actually sounds pretty good. Maybe that’ll be something to experiment with. 🙂

Beans! Glorious Beans!

After recovering from last week’s mini-flu and being merry this past Labor Day weekend, we got back out into the garden to pick…BEANS! If there’s one thing in the garden that’s doing better than just about everything else it’s the beans. Not the string beans (their season has passed), but the pole beans and bush beans, both of which require shelling and drying.

Just a handful of said beans, waiting to be shelled.
Just a handful of said beans, waiting to be shelled.

Or, in our case, just shelling because the pods and beans have already dried! That’s the really nice thing about thee beans — if you happen to forget about them, having them dry on the plants is no problem. At least them you’re sure that the beans are ready to store. (Though it’s always a good idea to set them out to dry for at least a few days, just to make sure they are all really dry. In the case of beans, one bad, wet bean can spoil the whole bunch, so no sense in letting your harvest go moldy.)

With having yesterday (Labor Day) off, we go to picking and shelling. We’ve got plenty to save now, and looking at what’s left on the plants, there are lots more to come! So let’s see just some of what we ended up with.

It’s kind of a short story, because once we shell all the beans…

Shelled and ready to sort.
Shelled and ready to sort.

…then it’s time to sort.

The first few of many piles.
The first few of many piles.

In the picture above we ended up with Blue Goose cowpeas (top left), Red Ripper cowpeas (top center), a few unripe black beans (top right), Cherokee Trail of Tears black beans (right), Holstein cowpeas (bottom center right), a couple Christmas lima beans (bottom center left), and Turkey Craw beans (bottom left). It’s a veritable cacophony of beans!

Seeing as how pretty the beans are, we couldn’t resist taking a few “artistic” shots.

The Blue Goose beans are very pretty, and they aren't really blue. More of a light gray speckled when they are raw. They become more brown when dry.
The Blue Goose beans are very pretty, and they aren’t really blue. More of a light gray speckled when they are raw. They become more brown when dry.
The Red Ripper beans start out very pink. They eventually dry to a deep maroon color.
The Red Ripper beans start out very pink. They eventually dry to a deep maroon color.
The speckled Turkey Craw beans also start out very pink and white. When dry, the pink part turns a dark, dull red, and the white part browns a little.
The speckled Turkey Craw beans also start out very pink, and white. When dry, the pink part turns a dark, dull cranberry red, and the white part turns beige.
The black beans are the prettier of them all. When raw, they take on various shades of dark blue and violet. They all dry a deep black.
The black beans are the prettiest of them all. When raw, they take on various shades of dark blue and violet. They all dry a deep black.

In addition to making a good harvest of these beans, we also managed a decent if small crop of soybeans this year.

Edamame, anyone?
Edamame, anyone?

Last year the squirrels and rabbits got to the soybeans before they even had a chance. This year, we planted the soybeans in one of the back barrels (when tomatoes would have been if they hadn’t died off early), and they did pretty well. We might try this placement for them again next year.

As more beans come in, it’ll soon be time to plan out all the bean soups and stews we’ll be making this winter! That is an exciting prospect, indeed. 🙂

Harvesting, Making, Preserving

It’s weird every year reaching August, because usually around the beginning of the month, the garden hits a point of no return. The plants themselves slowly begin to fade while the fruit and vegetables speedily ripen in the hot sun. We’re now watering every other day and harvesting at the same rate, and the bowlfuls of produce simply don’t stop! This is also the time of year when we turn our sights towards canning. We can only eat so much stuff in one sitting, after all! So with way too many tomatoes and cucumbers coming in last week…

And this is just ONE tray!
And this is just ONE tray!
Three beauties out of more than a dozen.
Three beauties out of more than a dozen.

…we set about doing this…

Tomatoes ready for the winter.
Fresh tomatoes ready for the winter.

…and this…

Mmmm...pickles! Going to be hard waiting a month to try them!
Mmmm…loads of bread and butter pickles! Going to be hard waiting a month to try them.

…and this.

We put our dehydrator into overtime.
We put our dehydrator into overtime for these dried tomatoes.

Plus, we made and froze a bunch of tomato sauce, ate everything zucchini that we possibly could (there are still more to harvest!), and have started saving pepper recipes. We may try freezing peppers this year if we get enough. So far, though, we’ve been using our many peppers regularly (those are green Jimmy Nardello peppers off to the left in the first picture above) so there many not be any leftover! We also had a fair number of tomatillos on hand.

024tomatillos
For some reason, we thought we got a purple variety. but these are definitely green.

We aren’t at all versed in tomatillos, so to us, these tasted very unusual – almost like apples — sweet, bright, and a little savory. So we turned them into salsa with some peppers, onions, and tomatoes. It was really delicious, though it had a very “green” flavor that was a little off-putting. We figured that was just the tomatillos. Those left on the stem too long turned yellow and were a bit more bitter. Still, it’s great that we got any this year to try!

In addition to harvesting, making fresh food, and preserving stuff, we’ve also started the annual ritual of seed saving. This has been easiest with the beans and peas, but we’ve also got some tomato and cucumber seeds stashed away, as well as plenty of pepper seeds.

024beans
Here we have a sampling of what we’re aiming to save. Ignoring the peach pits (maybe we’ll start a fruit tree?), at top left and going counterclockwise: garden peas, Jacob’s Cattle beans, a few ground cherries, Purple Teepee beans to be shelled, soybeans, Christmas Lima beans, and a few wax beans.

The more seeds we save, the better off the garden will be in the years to come. Plus, it’s way cheaper than buying new seeds every year! (Though, of course, there will always be new varieties to try.) Well that’s all for now. Once again, it’s really hard to believe we’re headlong into August already. This year has certainly blown by.

More Early Harvests: Kale, Peas, and Beans

At this point, calling these harvests “early” might be a bit misleading. It is, after all, late June, which is a proper harvesting time for many of our plants, and which is quite hard to believe. Seems like only yesterday we were putting seeds in the ground. But here we are with plenty already to fill our plates! This past weekend, we skulked around the garden looking for more stuff the grab, and we came away with a number of goodies, namely kale, peas, and some very pretty beans.

This year’s kale is of the same variety we planted last year, Blue Curled Scotch.

Sorry for the blurriness, but it's kale. Promise!
Sorry for the blurriness, but it’s kale. Promise!

Blue Curled Scotch is a basic, hardy variety that’s often found in the grocery stores, and it’s proficient producer. The leaves can be picked when they are young or mature, with the older leaves having a much stronger flavor. With this initial harvest, the leaves ranged from small to medium. Once we got them washed and cleaned, the next question was what to do worth them? As it was too warm to think about our favorite use for kale — in soup — we opted to make some yummy kale chips. Coarsely chop the leaves, sans spines, spread on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a tad of garlic powder, bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, and ta-da! Delicious kale chips.

Kale prepped...
Kale prepped…
...and baked! Delicious!
…and baked! Crisp and delicious!

After grabbing some kale, we checking our other two raised beds for peas, and we found plenty. More than plenty, in fact!

Just a handful from the full harvest.
Just a handful from the full harvest.

We planted several different pea varieties this year –snow, sugar snap, and garden, and…well…in one bed they all kind of grew into each other and are now something of a tangled mess. But! That has only made for something of a harvesting challenge — the plants themselves have been very prolific! The picture above shows two for the four varieties we planted. The larger, dark green ones are Snow Girl snow peas. They are extremely crisp and are great in stir-fries. The smaller ones are new to us — Alaska garden peas. We took several of these pods a bit early, but the larger, light green ones are ready to be hulled. Our hope for these, as well as another garden pea variety we planted in another bed, Laxton’s Progress No. 9, is that we’ll get enough to save to make a great split pea soup. We also planted another snow pea variety (Avalanche) and a snap pea variety (Cascadia), but have yet to harvest those. (This week, maybe!)

And finally, we picked some lovely purple bush beans! Two varieties: Purple Teepee and Velour Purple Filet.

They look good enough to eat. (And they are!)
The Purple Teepee beans. They look good enough to eat. (And they are!)
The pretty Velour Purple Filet beans. Almost elegant, they are.
The pretty Velour Purple Filet beans. Thin, elegant, and tasty.

Having had great success with yellow wax beans (Golden Wax Organic) in the past (which we planted again this year), we decided to branch out to planting several different types of bush beans this year, including two purple varieties. The Purple Teepee beans are wonderful. They have a great, fresh flavor. On the other hand, the Velour Purple Filet beans are delicate and have a more subtle, refined taste. Both are excellent when sauteed in a little olive oil and garlic!

It’s great starting out the official summer season with fresh produce. Good thing too, cause there’s lots more to come. We’ll be posting our second update in pictures next week, and boy oh boy, how everything has grown!

As the Garden Flowers

A lack of time this week is what’s keeping us from doing much of a proper blog post tonight. The many events of the day simply haven’t allowed for the extravagance of lazily typing away on a computer! So while we’re short on both text and pictures, though we do have some nice images to share. June usually means flowers, and many of our plants are well on their way towards flowering, if they aren’t already there.  The beans and peas are looking quite brilliant, as are our many, many, many tomato plants, along with a few other outliers. (Not pictured below are the peppers and ground cherries, both of which have started flowering as well. We also have a number of lettuce plants already going to seed.) So please enjoy the gallery below, and hopefully things will slow down a little next week so that we may provide a proper update on the all the garden’s goings-on!

Peas, peas, and more peas! Making up this particularly knotty patch is snow peas.
Peas, peas, and more peas! Making up this particularly knotty patch is snow peas.
Most of the beans are looking very promising. 16-bean soup hopes are in our future!
Most of the beans are looking very promising. 16-bean soup hopes are in our future!
Our purple bean varieties are particularly pretty.
Our purple bean varieties are particularly pretty.
And this is a horrible picture of one our our blooming tomatillos. Better images to come along soon.
And this is a horrible picture of one our our blooming tomatillos. Better images to come along soon.
It's all we can to do look at the tomato jungle and not sigh. Too late to turn back now.
It’s all we can to do look at the tomato jungle and not sigh. Too late to turn back now.
And finally, no flowers here, but our zucchini and squash plants are so amazingly large! The picture here doesn't really do them justice, though.
And finally, no flowers here, but our zucchini and squash plants are so amazingly large! The picture here doesn’t really do them justice, though.