Garden Update, October 2nd

Fear in a handful of beans (my apologies to T. S. Eliot). Okay, it’s not even a handful. But I grew them and they’re pretty cool!
Daikon doing their job, hopefully!
Grow artichoke, grow!
Pretty, wispy asparagus sprouts.
Baby leafy green.
Baby leafy green doing yoga.
Baby leafy green makes friend with baby artichoke.
Baby tempura.
Hang in there, Mr. Butternut!
The onion trio.
Tiny ‘tatoes.
Garden mascot <3

I did some garden cleaning on Sunday and found a few more pods of beans that I had missed during the spring. Apparently a grand total of three (that I could find) of those lovely scarlet runner flowers had been successfully pollinated (they resulted in the larger, purplish beans). Honestly, that’s more than I was expecting! So I’ll have some second generation beans growing in the garden next year. This time I’ll set my expectations lower for those guys and just think of them as a lovely crimson accent to the garden that may result in a bean or two (or three). They definitely need trellises on the next go, though, they toppled the corn plants I’d hoped would support them!

The dragon’s tongue beans I planted did much better! I’ve only a handful of them dried, but I snacked on quite a few when they were fresh. I think they were too fuzzy for my husband, but that just meant more for me! I look forward to a second generation of them, as well. I think I’ll aim for more plants next time, since the one plant I had this year was low-maintenance and such a good producer.

We’re still working hard on getting the garden into a non-messy, completely usable state. There’s tufts of daikon doing some hard work aerating the soil, and we’ve trimmed back the tomatoes (the plant has decided to be a perennial for the time being) so they don’t succeed in escaping the confines of the side planter. We put them over some not-so-happy garden spots to help feed the worms (very healthy, wiggly worms). We’ve still got a ton of dry patches thanks to spotty sprinkler placement, but that’s on a more long-term to-do list. At this point, I’m not really sure I could handle the whole garden being filled with plants.

We’re working on that, too, though! I sprouted some artichokes (have you ever seen a blooming artichoke flower? It’s going to be hard to pick those before they bloom) and we’ve got a couple of those into the dirt in the side planter. They should grow pretty big, but I don’t think they’re meant to produce for at least a few years. Got to start somewhere!

I’ve also got some really really cute asparagus sprouts that I have to get into their permanent homes soon. Just have to find good places for them. They’re another plant that won’t produce for a few years, but I don’t think they sprawl as much as artichoke. I think they just get tall and stalk-y like corn.

And we’ve got a smattering of leafy greens that we’re trying to grow. Weather is super weird, though, so I might have to put down another round of seed to get a good number of those. I think we’ve got kale, chard, spinach, and cabbage trying to grow. Don’t know which is which, since I’m a disorganized mess, but it will be a fun surprise!

We’re growing a kabocha squash plant that we’ll hopefully get to make some yummy tempura from.

And we’ve got a random butternut squash plant that decided to grow by itself (I didn’t plant it) and has already given us one delicious squash and is still hanging in there and trying to give us more.

We’ve got some happy little onion sprouts growing from some onion sets we purchased at the farm supply store last time we got mulch. Around those I planted a sprinkling of scallions, then watermelon radish, purple carrots, bok choy, and purple-top turnips (I think purple vegetables are gorgeous. The cabbage will be purple, too!) Their little sprouts are starting to pop up, now! I think I picked a good place to put them, they all look very happy. It’s going to be hard to thin them once they’re large enough.

Our volunteer potato plant (probably sprouted up from some kitchen scraps I buried outside for the worms) finished its life and withered away, so I dug it up to see if there were any potatoes. There were, but they were super small and something had already started eating them! I put a couple back in the ground to see if they’ll pop back up next year. The rest I’m leaving out in the sun to see if they’ll sprout. I’m not particularly hopeful.

Our younger kitty loves the garden, too, and was kind enough to sit for a photo shoot out there the other day.

Here’s hoping you’re all having a lovely fall, and that the weather gets a little more predictable soon!

In search of beans

When you've got beans in your pantry it can be bean time anytime!
My latest (and first) piece of chalkboard art

I just got back from biking to the library. Biking is a hobby I recently picked up in the interest of saving more money and growing my ‘stash (thanks Mr. Money Mustache for kicking my butt into gear on this), but libraries have been something I’ve loved since I was an elementary school student. I made the trip today to try and locate a particular book: Ken Albala’s Beans: A History. Now before you start wondering if this is just a fan blog for Professor Albala (he actually has his own blog, I discovered the existence of this and his Beans book yesterday), I promise I will pull from many other sources, not just his works. It’s just that he was my introduction to this scintillating intersection of food nerdistry and history, and I already know he can present it in a way that my history-lesson-averse brain can handle!

Anyways, I think I’ve settled on the first food I want to explore on this blog. In case you can’t tell from my chasing after this book (my librarian very helpfully requested an inter-library loan for me, and it should be here within a month!), the first food I’m going to be looking into is beans!

I love beans.

Sometimes they don’t love me back, but that doesn’t stop me from indulging. We threw some chickpeas in our dinner on a whim on Saturday. Actually I’m not sure chickpeas are a bean. Let me check…

Yes, they are a bean! Because the are garbanzo beans and I am a silly and forgot they were the same thing.

Beans are what encouraged me to teach myself canning — I’m a big fan of beans, but not of all the salt they usually get packed with*! In fact, the fancy chalkboard drawing (and un-fancy lettering, I’ll have to work on that) above came about the last time my husband and I had a bean canning session.

I also grew some beans in my garden this year, though I need to be a much more disciplined gardener if I want to get the kind of harvest that will give me enough to can. The flowers are gorgeous though! I wish I had pictures of the monsters those cute little purple blooms turned into. The site where I bought the seeds will have to do.

But apart from how to can them and how to grow (not enough) of them, what do I know about beans?

I know humans have been eating them for a long, long time. They feature in Indian, Mexican, Italian, and English cuisine, not to mention in good ‘ol American barbecue. I know there are ‘old world’ and ‘new world’ beans , but not which beans belong to which group (thank you Professor Albala, and I’m sorry for forgetting). But where were they used first? How were they used? Heck, I don’t even have a complete picture of how they’re used now! 

I also know beans were used to vote, but I don’t know to what extent. I know Pythagoras (my math bro!) refused to eat beans but I don’t think that everybody can agree why (another tidbit I learned from Professor Albala’s Great Courses lectures). So that sounds like a fun story to dig into, too!

While I wait for the book focusing on the matter of Beans, I hope to do a little preliminary digging and to start answering some of these questions and hopefully think of some more.

Oh! And maybe I’ll put up a recipe for the dish we added chickpeas (garbanzo beans!) to, it turned out really tasty!

* If you’re looking to find some no-sodium beans, but don’t want to run the risk of this being your kitchen, I highly recommend Eden brand beans!