Garden Update 6/10/2018

It’s not yet official, but it is squarely summertime. In 11 days the title will match the weather. Austin gets lovely rainy breaks this time of year. Thunderstorms blow in and out and that is how we get the majority of our rain. We had a DOOZY on Monday. It pushed over the fig tree which has a trunk over 5 inches across completely over to the ground. It is a rather top-heavy tree. It blew over fences. It tossed pillows into neighbors yards. It blew trampolines onto roofs…

Out at the Garden Patch

It was a pleasant surprise to find that the garden patch weathered the storm fairly well. Instead of being destroyed, it got a big drink. No real damage was done at all. The pole tents with climbing beans were a little bent out of shape and wonky leaning to one side, but other than tossing the dill and sunchokes about which will now require staking, everything else looked great.

Peas and beans

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The right side is dried beans. The majority of the bush black turtle beans planted around the bottom are done flowering. I’m mostly just waiting for the plants to finish developing their last pods then I’ll tear up the whole plants. It’s early enough that I can probably squeeze in another planting of tepary beans in their place. Tepary’s should be able to endure crazy hot summer climates since they are Arizona natives. The right side are mostly fresh eating beans. I’ve learned some things:

IMG_0476The middle row in the picture above contains the three fresh eating bush varieties.

Fresh eating Bush beans

Dragon Tongue (fastest earliest producer) are my favorite so far. They are NOT hot weather happy plants. They like 80 degree highs and stopped looking so happy on our first day of 90 degrees. well it’s been in the high 90’s for weeks now, they have suffered. The plants that were put in the ground after April 15th in the succession planting have not yet produced anything. I think it got too hot before the plant was fully developed and I doubt if I’ll see anything. So pro tip for these, plant them all early to give them the best chance before hot weather sets in and stresses them out. The sweet spot is to pick them when they are yellow and have dark purple splotches like the picture, if left on the plant too long they get tougher and the purple fades to just a butter yellow color. This happens in a matter of a day or two so check often.

Cantare (mid producer) are less tender than the dragon tongue. More of a typical store green-bean, but MAN they produce. The hot weather has not even phased them. I also only have about three plants producing anything planted after April 15th is not doing anything yet either, but I think they got shaded out from some of the pole bean varieties planted too closely, this one is a great hot weather producer.

Soybeans (late producer) are chugging along, they are the best suited to handle the heat of the three it appears. Even the latest planted are doing just fine with now signs of stress. Everything I have read says to wait until a few leaves turn yellow on a plant to start harvesting the pods. Every plant looks green and like it is still growing even though it is loaded with pods. I’m just playing the waiting game.

Fresh eating Pole beans:

Purple Thai yard long beans

Look at this Lovely plant:

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Fresh they aren’t the absolute worst, but on the baker creek website they said they are best pan-fried. I put a handful in some Thai bun I made the other night for dinner. I pan fried in olive oil with some minced garlic until the garlic browned then took them off the heat and let them cool down in the pan. They were great. The key to these I believe is to pick them before they got too big and fat. They get a little weird the bigger they get. There is a few I have clearly missed the window on and I’m leaving them for seed. I think pencil thickness is probably the largest they should be. I have a few that look larger than fingers and I’m certain they won’t taste the same as the tender small ones. These guys absolutely love the hot weather and look like they will be a star producer.

Asian winged beans I haven’t seen anything on these plants. They honestly look like they are struggling and slow-growing. I’m not sure what they need to get them to kick off.

Beans greasy grits these are NOT fresh eating. I think it says that they can be eaten fresh at 2-3 inches long. A) good luck finding the beans when they are that small B) they are too tough in texture to bother with eating fresh compared to the other bush beans and Thai yard long beans. I’m re-purposing these as dried beans and we’ll see if they taste better that way.

Dried Bush Beans

Black turtle: Looks like it loved being planted at the end of march and has produced enough to make me thing they were really happy. I hope they taste good because i think we will have a decent amount of them.

Dried Pole Beans

Purple Cowpea looks pretty happy like it is producing a few pods. It doesn’t seem to be as prolific as I was hoping. Not sure If I shouldn’t be letting the beans mature on the plant to continue production??

Tepary beans look weak and pitiful but if I remember correctly they tend to pick up in fall so it’s ok that they aren’t doing much right now. I’ll replant to pulled up black turtles with more of these soon.

Rattle Snake Pole are the heaviest setting beans I have other than the thai yard long. The stakes are super heavy and positively covered in these pods.

Peppers and Eggplants

IMG_1120I think I might have to thin out the lower leaves of the eggplant to keep the peppers from getting too much shade. They all appear to be doing well still for the most part. Sweet peppers are on the right, hot peppers on the left. Other than Jalapeno’s I’ve decided to pick peppers only once they turn color. So I’ll get fewer per plant but they will taste better and be more vitamin rich. Also, I planted WAY more than two people need so It’s ok if I get fewer.

Sweet Peppers

Jimmy Nardellos’ are the best producer by far. They are just starting to turn red. I’ll be looking forward to these roasted on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Red pepper cheese are maybe one or two per plant and that is it so far. They don’t even look like they are close to turning red yet. They are also a lot bigger than I thought they would be.

Coro Ditoro almost looks like it isn’t doing anything. I think there might be one pepper on one plant and that is it.

Hot peppers

These guys are all doing great. chugging along, cranking out some fun things to play with in the kitchen. I have no complaints or observations worth noting. Here’s a pretty poblano.

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Eggplants

Eggplants are going nuts. I Spent a few hours on pinterest to try to find recipes for them. These little dudes should continue to produce right through fall so there should be no shortage of eggplant experiments.

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Dill and Carrots

The lovely dill that crowned the corner is reduced to a bowing heap after the storm. It’s partially shading out the carrots. Even though it looks worse for wear I’ve decided to keep it there. I’ll probably come up with a better staking solution so it stays more upright. I’ll be collecting the seeds from the flower heads when the mature.

Carrots are starting to bolt. I noticed every few days I go out to water there are one or two that look like flower stalks are forming I made the mistake of using one in the Thai bun dinner the other night. Bolted carrots turn woody. I think the temperature has proved too much for them. I decided to pick all of them this weekend. I’ll roast them with some beans and onions and bring it for work lunches. I’ve decided to replant the carrot bed with basil. The basil I had between the eggplants and peppers is getting shaded out. This new-found space will provide a perfect place for some new baby herbs.

Brassica Beds

The beets are still surviving though I don’t believe they appreciate the weather. I should really have picked the green top flat of egypt variety by now. The look like they are having the hardest time. I don’t think they will be nearly as good now that they have struggled through this hot weather. I see a lot of beet soup in my future. I’m surprised the bulls blood is doing as well as it is. That variety seems like it can handle the heat a little better.  In the middle I’ve planted some squash and melons that are still pretty small.

Here’s what’s left after giving away half of the eggplants and peppers and some beans:

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I love all of the beautiful colors.

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May Home and Garden Patch Update 5/19/2018

The Back Yard

This afternoon was a perfect day to take a cruise around the back yard to see what there was to see. It’s time to use bug spray. The effect of todays little adventure resulted in no less than 30 bug bites. But this is Texas, and things bite here. I’ve gotten used to it, or rather accepted it for what it is at least.

Plum tree

IMG_0721Today the plum received protective coverings on the 6 fruits that were visible.

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One was a little too high up for me to put a cover on so I snagged it off the tree to test how ripe it was. Still a little tart, but getting close.

IMG_1001Loquat Tree

a few weeks ago I kept an eye out for the loquat fruit to ripen. Well… the loads of peaches were so distracting that I apparently forgot about them long enough the birds had their way and I didn’t get any.

IMG_0840Maybe next year… maybe next year. Until then I’ll just wonder how best to use you.

Pomegranate Tree

IMG_0995It’s starting to look as though we will actually be getting a few this year. I’m very excited by this prospect! I love pomegranates, and dreaming of pomegranate mint salads.

FlowersIMG_0996Monarda is making its first appearance of the year. I love these beauties. They’ve attracted resident humming birds in the past. And this tough little plant is one of my favorite easy growing spreaders for empty area.

IMG_0998The Echinacea patch is also just starting to bloom. I noticed it is naturalizing into the lawn. I’ll have to move clumps to other areas to keep them from getting moved over. Not a bad plant to have spread, it has such a gorgeous color.

Tomatoes and Squash

The first picture is 4/1/2018 the second picture is 4/22/2018

IMG_1002This is 5/20/2018.  Yes. the tomatoes are now covered in bird net and taller than their supports. There’s also some surprise sunchokes in the foreground.

Cucumbers and Volunteer Tomatoes

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Everything is starting to get big quickly. Most of the plants have a few flowers or immature buds.

Garden Patch

IMG_0981I’m busily pulling beets and rutabagas from the ground.

Beans

The two fresh eating beans planted first are starting to make fresh beans now. I think the dragon tongue is my favorite of the two.  Below is a picture of the dried beans that I will just continue to let produce and leave on the plant. They will be brown and leathery when the whole pant is pulled out of the ground.

IMG_1009Soy beans are getting bigger too. Lots of edamame in our future!

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Peppers

I’ve been picking hot peppers for a few weeks now. Last week I picked about 8 large Poblanos and a few Jalapeños to make a shredded chicken crock pot dish that we put into corn tortillas and poured some homemade salsa verde over.

The sweet peppers are finally starting to come on.

The right is a few Jimmy Nardelo’s that I’ll pick and roast when they start to turn red. The Right is red pepper cheese. A cute little turbine pepper reminiscent a Habanero but sweet and will also turn red. The Italian Yellow bells didn’t appear to have any impressive looking fruit that popped out at me yet.

Eggplant

IMG_1006My little Japanese long eggplants are starting to produce. It wont be long before we can start picking them now.

IMG_1013This is the haul for this week. I ran out to the garden patch this morning right before a thunderstorm hit so I didn’t have time to wash everything like I would normally do before I bring it into the house.

I’ve got about 10 poblano peppers we will stuff with chicken and cheese and cover in more salsa verde. I found the BEST recipe for salsa verde which I’ll use an onion and jalapeno for. I’m roasting the beets and other root vegetables for Lunches with some herbs sprinkled over the top and a drizzle of oil.

IMG_1014Things are starting to really pick up out at the garden. It has been a great feeling to be able to eat the things that are worked so hard and cared for.

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Veggie Patch 5/13/2018

The Veggie patch is now in Full-swing. Every few days I get to come home with a batch of fresh produce. There’s enough beets in the fridge for me to eat for a few weeks. That will be turned into some sort of beet soup for work lunches since the husband isn’t a fan. There are unfortunately still turnips in the fridge. I’m going to just roast and eat to get over with. In the corner to the left of the picture below you see the first pulled Rutabaga which may or may not have been a mistake like the turnips. Unfortunately there are even more rutabagas than turnips…. That is an experiment for later. One that my dear husband and I are a little hesitant to try…

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Onions are being plucked from the ground weekly. Only the Georgia Sweets are impressive in size. That is the impressive variety. Texas onions are still puny. The combination of a little later than recommended planting plus too much shade from the dill that has grown out of hand is likely the reason why they are suffering.

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Carrots are ready! Much to my surprise the carrots are ready to be picked. Equally surprising; they taste good even though it’s been in the 90’s for a few weeks. We roasted them with an onion and some new potatoes last night and MAN was that delicious! Sprinkled a little avocado oil and some of the rosemary-sage salt. My favorite variety just based off looks alone were the black ones but they are equally delicious.

Peppers are starting to produce like crazy too. The hot peppers aren’t really totally ready they are still smaller than full size but I’ve been using the Jalapeno’s for peach salsa.  I also picked some mystery peppers to try to figure out what they are. I’m guessing they are actually Hungarian yellow wax peppers.They are NOT Anaheim peppers. A few Anaheim peppers were picked too just because they were touching the ground since the plants were buried deeply and I didn’t want pest problems. The sweet peppers are still a little behind. Most are just starting to make flower buds, a few have baby peppers.

The beans are finally starting to gain some momentum. It is ridiculous how fast they are starting to grow now. The picture on the right was 15 days ago compared to the left which was today:

The climbing ones are starting to climb, some of the dried beans are starting to put on flowers and a few tiny beans. The first planted fresh eating bean is the french dragon which I got to try today for the first time.

Today I planted some squash (might be too late for that but I already have some at home.) And some melons. Here’s an overview of what the garden looks like right now:

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I even found a frog:

IMG_0969 2I love going out there. It’s much less work and much more enjoyable. Happy gardening!

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Staking peppers plot progress 3/31/2018

Pepper Beds

The hot pepper bed has really been taking off. I got some advise from my plot neighbors to stake the peppers because it gets extremely windy.

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They’ve already doubled in size since they were put in the ground. Most have little buds in their growing point and a few are already flowering.

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I planted them extra deep but now I’m wondering if that was a bad idea, The buds are fairly close to the ground. I might have to devise a way of keeping the peppers from growing down into the dirt.

The sweet pepper transplants are still dinky so maybe in a week or two they will get staked. There was not much change since last week.

Onions Carrots/Dill Beds

Look how wimpy the onions along the border to the left are compared to the right. The spacing is the same, They were purchased and planted at the same time. This is the difference between Texas Sweet (left) and Georgia Sweet (right). Both have the same watering schedule and have been supplemented with the same nutrients. I realized about two weeks ago I really messed up with the onions. These are all non-storage onions. Yeah. There’s about 200 of them total. My husband and I are not going to be able to use them all within 30 days…. I think I’ll be bringing them in to work and giving them away to friends if they actually produce. This prompted me to do research on short-day storing types. I was shocked at how limited the options were. I’ll be figuring out what to do about those here shortly to order seeds for fall.

the Carrots and Dill look like they are chugging away just fine. I’ll be starting to cut back the dill for salads here shortly.

Beets Turnips Rutabagas

This is the turnip and beet bed. These turnips have yet to produce a visible bulb but they are sure churning out the greenery. I’ll probably thin the greens and use some in a collard green recipe experiment here shortly. They are already shading out the marigolds! I’m not sure if they will bulb or not. It seems like they should have started by now.

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The Bulls Blood beets on the right had side have red leaves which was unexpected. They seem to grow slightly faster than the Flat of Egypt beets. Neither variety is bulbing yet.

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These are the turnip Nagasaki Akari Kabu which are giving me beautiful bulbs already. These are my favorite so far. They are surrounded by a most likely failed experiment of Rutabagas. The Rutabagas grow so slowly by comparison I doubt I’ll be able to keep them alive through the hot summer here. I’ll try planting them again in fall if they do not pull through to see if maybe they are a fall crop. Same thing with the really leafy turnip variety. Maybe I’m figuring out what will work in spring and possibly something different will work in fall.

Both of these beds were covered with shade cloth. The sun is getting so warm its 80 degrees and these plants like the 60’s.

Bean Beds

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The dry bean bed is doing great so far. The plants need to be thinned pretty soon but I saw some pricked out so I want to keep my numbers large until they are big enough to not be bothered by cutworms or birds.

IMG_0533The fresh bean bed is progressing nicely also. This is the first time I’ve done succession planting of the same crop. I don’t know if it works well for my situation yet but right now there are three fresh-eating beans in three different stages. full on little leafy plants, new sprouts and seeds just poked in the ground. The winged beans are planted in the middle row with the trellises in the center. They are the most sorry-looking of all the beans right now. I’m fairly certain they require more heat to really get moving than what we’ve had so far. They may have been planted a little bit early but I’m not familiar enough with the variety to know for sure.

Other beds

There’s some flower seeds that are starting to leaf out in their first true leaves, same with the parsnips. The hamburg parsley has yet to make an appearance. I don’t know if any of them germinated or ever will. Sunchokes have awoken from their slumber. I’m trying to decide if I want to plant flowers or a melon at the only unclaimed raised bed.

Things are really starting to take off. Its amazing how fast everything has grown this month!

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Crepe Myrtle

 

 

 

Sweet Peppers and Plot Update 3/24/2017

Another weekend day out at the Garden patch

The to-do list is short, but time-consuming.

  1. Transplant sweet peppers to their new home
  2. Plant the next successive week of bean plants in the fresh-eating bed
  3. Water the beds
  4. Try to finish mulching the pathways

Sweet Pepper Transplanting

The sweet pepper seedlings have hardened off over the past week and they are ready to go in the ground. I mixed on extra bone meal, blood meal and all-purpose organic fertilizer in each planting hole. They are planted extra deep with a mulch of worm castings. I’m going to do everything possible to try to help them out since I have no experience with sweet peppers in the area.

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Bean Planting

The fresh beans have not yet sprouted yet from the planting last week. It’s a little concerning, might need to re-do the first batch. The dry bean bed however has sprouted nicely.

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Watering the beds

There’s two methods of watering done here (hopefully soon to be three). For hot weather pepper beds where there are few plants but they are larger I’m spot watering, Filling up a bucket and deep watering them twice with a large splash of water right at the base of the plant. This conserves water and is fast. It also has a bonus of not helping weed seeds germinate around the peppers since they are staying dry. Because the peppers are planted deeply, I can ensure their roots get plenty of water and the soil above acts as a heavy mulch so the water they get does not evaporate. Also, this is fast which I’m a huge fan of.

The other beds were all started from seed so I use a different method of watering. Each seed-sown bed is wet with a quick initial spray. This is to make sure the surface will be receptive to water. if one area is soaked and the soil isn’t primed wet it has a higher probability of just running off the bed and down the sides not really soaking in. Then a successive two or three pass by’s of deep watering each bed  happens. I do this about every other day. It takes about 30-40 minutes.

Hopefully drip irrigation can be installed on a timer and that will limit the amount of time spent watering.

Mulching the pathways

IMG_0494Most of the interior pathways are done now. The remaining perimeter is going to be a chore. Things are starting to look more finished!

Progress

The turnips are starting to bulb out!! I’m so excited!!! I’m worried it will bet to hot and the bulbing will stop but for now it’s amazing how fast they are maturing! a few days ago a very slight purple spot was visible at the base of the plant. Now it’s definitely a bulb. A small one, but a bulb.

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The hot pepper bed has grown a significant amount in one week also. Most of the plants have immature flower bulbs in their growing point now. This Anaheim pepper is actually flowering. It’s awesome to think that at the end of April there might be some hot peppers ripening up.

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Observations

  1. The Georgia sweet onions appear to be much larger and faster growing than the Texas sweet onions.
  2. Rutabagas appear to be MUCH slower growing than anticipated. Either they are a whole year-in-one-place crop, or the weather is too variable or to hot too quickly for them to really get established.
  3. Sunscreen is a MUST going forward in order to avoid an even more horrific farmers tan.
  4. Parsnips are popping out of the ground. No hamburg parsley yet.
  5. I think the love-in-a-mist is sporadically germinating, unless they are actually weeds that I’ll regret leaving in the ground later.
  6. lychnis has germinated. (perennial flower)
  7. Sunchokes are popping out of the ground.

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Peppers and Beans 3/17/2018

This morning was glorious and beautiful. Setting foot outside was like walking into a jungle. A little humidity, some morning shade, the grackles calling like some tropical Hawaii bird. I love this weather. 80 degrees and humid at 9am YES PLEASE. It’s like living in paradise here. Armed with my strong morning black coffee that my husband lovingly makes for me, it was time to repot the pepper seedlings.

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The sweet peppers we’re trying this year are: Jimmy Nardello (red mottled thin long peppers), Corno di Toro Ciallo (yellow/green large and elongated), and Red pepper cheese (little red turban shaped mini peppers). These are supposed to be flavorful and odd. Something you wouldn’t be able to find in an American grocery store. If we don’t care for these, then we probably don’t care for sweet peppers and I’ll know to not plant them next year. The Jimmy Nardello I was particularly excited about trying and unfortunately only two seeds sprouted of the original sowing so they were re-planted sort of over the top of the old ones a few weeks later. There were much better results in germination the second time even though the conditions seemed the same. As a result, most of the Jimmy Nardello’s are very tiny seedlings compared to the other pepper varieties. Newly repotted in their new homes they will live out/indoors as they harden-off this week. Next weekend I’ll plant them outside in their permanent residence. Since today was 80 something and sunny they received full-shade treatment so they don’t fry completely the first day outside.

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These are all bound for the sweet pepper bed next weekend.  Today the hot pepper bed was planted out fully. My stead-fast garden salsa peppers were not available this year at the store so I’m experimenting with poblano, Anaheim , Goliath Jalapeno, and Mild Jalapeno’s.  Today I also planted 4 eggplants (2 different Japanese varieties) and basil.

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Today was also the beginning of bean day. I planted one bed full of pole / bush dry beans and one bed of pole/bush fresh beans. The picture of those just looks like a bunch of dirt so it’s not that interesting yet. The top row is fresh pole beans, the middle row is fresh bush beans, the bottom row are the dried beans with black turtle being the only bush variety.

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Succession planting seems like a smart idea for the fresh beans, One bean plant per week per variety will be planted for 6 weeks total for the bush beans. Hopefully this means fresh beans will be abundant at different times instead of getting one bumper crop that is over all at once. Not sure what will happen there, It’s the first time I’ve tried it.

Every other day I go out to water the seeds from that were planted earlier in February:

IMG_0472This is the beet and turnip bed. It seems as though they are growing very slowly. Then I think about how the seeds were as small as a ball-point pen tip and they are already this size a month later. That is fairly incredible. I’m sure the growth trend will continue.

And here is an over-all picture of the garden plot progress:

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There’s still some pathway weeding/mulching to do but the beds are getting filled slowly but surely. Hoping that this is the beginning of a wonderful garden season with lots of lessons learned and enough success to make it fun.

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Are Tepary Beans Tasty? 2/25/2018

Last summer I grew Tepary beans in a neglected corner of the yard where a little space was available. Tepary beans are a variety a lot of conventional gardeners have not heard of. They originated from the American Southwest and Mexico where they can survive and produce on monsoon rain alone in the arid desert. In my experience in Texas so far, things that are rugged survivors don’t necessarily taste good. Under what is likely not optimal growing conditions the beans blossomed with pretty little flowers and matured giving a meager handful of beans that are left to dry on the plant before picking.

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The temperature started falling and the days started getting shorter and the plant burst forth with incredible vigor and produced enough beans to fill up most of a pint mason jar. Its like the vine was sleeping until fall started to arrive then it really kicked into gear. All the pods that were picked before the snow storm last winter were shelled in my spare time during the winter. This is what one plant’s worth looks like when it’s in part sun and gets regular irrigation from the sprinkler system:

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Not too shabby for one plant in my opinion. But what is the point of growing them if they don’t taste good? My brave husband will be participating in giving the gladiator thumbs up or down to the tepary bean tonight.  I did some research on how to cook them. It’s VERY IMPORTANT to research how to cook each type of bean you grow that is not just for fresh eating. Beans contain a compound called lectin. Some lectin is not harmful, but the lectins found in undercooked and raw beans are toxic. The red kidney bean is probably the most famous with its high content of the poison phytohaemagglutinin. A nasty trait of the toxin is that if it is only partially cooked the toxicity level can actually Increase. What to take away from this:

  • Soak beans for the recommended period of time in the recommended amount of water.
  • Discard this water
  • Boil Beans for recommended period of time

A lot of recipes online didn’t say anything about soaking time or that it was not necessary to discard the water etc. I don’t trust that at all. I found a great website from a farmer that sells tepary beans and has recipes which included preparation techniques. This said soak tepary beans overnight and bring to a boil. It doesn’t say how long to boil and because I’m paranoid I boiled ours for 10 minutes which is probably overkill but it is the recommended length of time for a kidney bean which is extremely poisonous.

Ok, now that the public safety announcement is over with, I’ll continue.

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It was surprising to see just how much the beans increased in volume from the overnight soaking. One cup of dried beans turns into 2 or 3 cups of soaked beans.

The french have a wonderful way of making food taste great. If the beans taste terrible I want it to be because we don’t like the beans, not because we don’t like the dish. Ragout is the answer. Pancetta, who doesn’t love it? I do! but I have bacon in the fridge so I’ll settle for that instead.

  • Bacon – 3 large slices
  • Red onion, – one medium
  • Fresh sage leaves, (3)
  • Celery – 4 stalks
  • 32oz container of chicken broth
  • Soaked beans (1 cup dry)
  • Handful of fresh parsley thrown in to finish it off.

Sounds good to me! All the ingredients are tossed into the slow cooker except the parsley.

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8-ish hours later.. hopefully something tasty will emerge.

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This was surprisingly good. All I did was add salt to taste and stir in some fresh parsley. Husband gave it a thumbs up, said it was very tasty. I agree. And the beans were not at all grainy. I’m loving the idea of planting this little seed, not doing anything to it. Just shelling some beans during winter’s downtime and being able to make some delicious meals that came from the garden when a chunk of it is dead mid winter!

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