Category Archives: gardening

Bean Freak

Husband and I lived in southern Indiana for a year just after our son was born while Husband finished his psychology internship.  It was much warmer than Winnipeg, and we were introduced to many garden plants I had never seen before. Salsify?  Who knew what it was and that you could grow it in your garden?  The real surprise for me was shell out beans. Those are  beans like navy beans, pinto beans, cannellini beans and all sorts of other beans that I had never seen grown in gardens and that you harvest fresh, not dried.  We became hooked on them.

We didn’t  grow them in our garden until the last 10 years or so due to limited space, when Husband discovered metal bean poles, and we have been growing them ever since. Growing vertically really saves space. This year we are growing Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans and Vermont Cranberry beans.  The Hidatsa beans are traditional beans grown by one of the three tribes husband works for on the Rez. They are big, plumpsters that parboil and freeze well.  I love them in soup and chili.

The problem with beans like this is that they are addictive.  You want more and more. You can read about this phenomenon in this recent New Yorker article:

Most pole bean cultivars of this type need 95-110 days to mature after they germinate. We don’t have that long of a growing season., and we will buy dried beans that we can’t grow here. Recently, I was searching beans on line and found  the source listed in the New Yorker article for dozens of exotic and long season dried beans. You could get the traditional French beans for cassoulet (Tarbais beans), flageolet beans, and every exotic South American and Caribbean bean that is currently produced. Husband had to stop me (But we have two ducks in freezer. Let’s whip up some cassoulet!)  He reminded me that we didn’t have to order pounds of beans at that moment, and that perhaps we should see what our harvest will be this fall. I agreed, but I am secretly planning an order.

What have you been obsessed with? What is your favorite bean recipe?

Backyard Revival

About 25 years ago we planted 15 feet of raspberries along the fence on the North side of our yard. Husband had inadvertently killed a 4 foot wide strip of grass along the fence the entire length of our property.   We planted day lilies and irises in the remaining length of the dead zone.   As our raspberries grew and flourished (and spread beyond the original 15 foot bed), so did an ash tree on the other side of the fence  along the property line in our neighbor’s yard, throwing increasing shade on the canes. The canes have  moved away from the shaded area under the tree over the years and invaded the lawn, leaving a large, empty space along the fence that fills up with weeds.  It is hard to walk between the invading raspberries and the strawberry bed. It is impossible to mow.

The raspberries produced prodigiously until this year. The berries  were small and hard, and withered immediately after ripening.  I suppose there could be disease going on, or else, after so many years of productivity,  the new canes that grow up every year are just worn out and don’t have the vigor of the originals we planted.  The ash tree is too tall for us to trim, even though we would be within our rights to trim every part of it that hangs over our property.  We decided it is time to reclaim the area, dig up the raspberries that are too shaded, and plant hydrangeas,  ligularia (aka “The Rocket”), and ostrich ferns,  in their place.  That shouldn’t cost too much, but it won’t be a picnic digging up those raspberry canes. There are still raspberries that get enough sun, and we will leave them be.  They haven’t invaded the lawn yet.

Hydrangeas grow beautifully in our yard, and can cover a large area of landscaping sins.  I am tired of such a wild looking back yard. We will have to sell the house in the next few years and it isn’t too early to start sprucing the place up.  I look forward to a backyard revival, but not the expense and the labor that will go into it.

If money and  labor were no object, how would you change the landscaping  in your yard?

Too Hot to Handle

I didn’t start cooking until I moved into my first apartment. My mom doesn’t like to cook and when I became a vegetarian at 16, the few things she could cook became out of bounds for me.  She had 2 cookbooks all the time I was growing up, Joy of Cooking and The Betty Crocker Cookie Book.  So I wasn’t surprised when she gave me a copy of Joy when I set up my first kitchen.  It wasn’t too useful for a beginning vegetarian so it was joined quickly by Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Laurel’s Kitchen.

I didn’t cook with too many exotic ingredients back then – nothing even remotely “different” made its way into my mom’s kitchen so I didn’t have any experience with the out-of-the-ordinary. I don’t remember the first time I cooked with a jalapeno or any other hot pepper, but it’s been at least 30+ years and now they are a staple at our house.

So you would think that I know better by now about handling hot peppers. Just one Mucho Nacho (a type of jalapeno).  I cut the seeds and inner veins out, thinking about the capsicum all the while.  Then I apparently turned my brain off, because after I dumped the peppers into the pan, I just kept working instead of washing my hands.  Within 10 minutes I had touched my lips in two places, licked a finger and gotten the juice under my thumbnail as well.  Paper towel soaked in milk helped the lips, held the thumb in the milk for 5 minutes and then drank the rest.  Aaaahhhhh.

What lesson do you wish you would learn? Or took you too long to learn?

 And does anybody need a hot pepper or two on Sunday???

Objects of Fascination

It happened again. Husband and I were weeding in the front yard veggie garden when a car pulled up and the driver got out. He introduced himself as a new neighbor from down the block. Then,  he asked the inevitable question “What are those”?

By “those” he was referring to our metal bean poles. We regularly  get questions about them, what is growing on them, and why we use them.  It surprises me that those poles and their beans are such objects of wonder for people.  I like answering the inquiries.  I told the 3 and 5 year old neighbor children that they are the beans from “Jack and the Beanstalk”,  and that they should keep  a eye out for giants. They tell me excitedly whenever I see them that they are. Sometimes I tell people we use them to communicate with aliens. Some realize I am joking. Others just give me an odd look. Keep them guessing, I say!

What do you wonder about your friends, neighbors, and relations that you are are afraid to ask?

Reaping the Bounty. Now What?

I travel just enough to get some airline miles but usually I don’t hit that sweet spot where you can turn them in for airline tickets. Instead I have magazines.  Lots of magazines – most of them food related (imagine that).  At this time of year, food magazines are always filled with recipes using the bounty of summer gardens.  And just in time too!  I’ve harvested all my basil (10 jars of pesto) and the tomatoes have just started to turn.  The first handful of grape tomatoes didn’t make it into the house but the two Romas went into a pasta and green bean salad yesterday.  I’m guessing in about a week or so, I’ll be overloaded with tomatoes and trying as many of this month’s magazine recipes as possible.  I think this one will be first:

Tomato Salad w/ Charred Corn & Peppers

4 ears of corn, shucked
1 c. roasted red peppers (save liquid)
2 T. olive oil
2 T plus 2 tsp. wine vinegar
1 ¼ tsp Aleppo pepper
½ tsp chopped oregano
2 ¼ lbs. tomatoes
½ tsp salt
½ c. queso fresco

  1. Grill the corn on medium heat until nicely charred, 8-12 minutes
  2. Cut the kernals off the cobs and combine with red peppers, 2 tsp of the pepper liquid, oil, 2 T vinegar, 1 tsp Aleppo pepper and the oregano.
  3. Slice the tomatoes, tossing with the remaining salt and tsp vinegar. Arrange on a plate and cover with the corn mixture, queso fresco and the remaining ¼ tsp Aleppo pepper.

Note: If you don’t have Aleppo pepper you can make a good substitute using 4 parts paprika and 1 part cayenne.

What would you like to do with an overload of tomatoes this year?

Strange Portents

The cats and I noticed something alarming in the garden this morning-a large flock of Chipping Sparrows fluttering around the pea fences.  (Well, I was alarmed. The cats were merely curious.)

I usually see birds flocking around the time school starts in mid to late August. It is only mid to late July, and I certainly hope that this isn’t a portent for an early winter. Our garden is a couple of weeks behind as it is, and we will need as many frost-free days as we can get for a good harvest.

How good are you at predicting things?

Got Out Of That One

Husband and I used to erect three, 10 foot long, steel hog panels in the garden for the peas to grow up. We secured the panels  to thin, plastic coated metal poles using  wire. The panels worked great,  but they got too heavy to move and too bulky to store, so, the for past couple of years we have used plastic poultry netting stapled to wooden poles for the peas to grow up.

This year the wooden poles are tall, thin, and not very straight or stable. I put the fence up, and it looks very crooked and  has lots of  droopy gaps. The finicky, Dutch part of me cringes when I look at it.  It will do for the peas,  though, and I have every confidence that no rancher in his right mind will ever ask me to help him with fencing.  It is nice to think that is one responsibility I will never have.

What skill do you lack that you either wish you had or you are glad you don’t possess?