Beans: from garden to plate
Beans are a Kansas favorite in the vegetable garden. These warm-season plants are well acclimated to our tough Kansas summers. Once planted, they grow very fast and most varieties are ready to harvest in seven to eight weeks.
In the Demo Garden, beans are starting to produce. It is best to harvest when the pods are firm and crisp, but the bean seeds are not yet bulging. If at all possible, don’t pick them in the early morning when there is dew on the plants, as blight, a common bacterial disease, can easily be spread from one plant to another via splashing water droplets. So, make sure the plant foliage is dry before harvesting.
Green beans are typically grown for their immature pods. Beans such as navy and lima beans are allowed to fully ripen and then the bean seeds are removed from the pods; these types of beans are harvested much later in the season.
On April 28th, we planted four different varieties of bush style green beans (also called snap beans) in the Demo Garden: Heavy Harvest, Tenderette, Royal Burgundy, and Tendergreen Improved.
‘Heavy Harvest’ is a 53-day bean. This medium green-colored bean is also slender and grows about five inches long. So far, it is not living up to its namesake in that it has only yielded a small amount of beans so far.
‘Tenderette’ is a 58-day variety of bean. It also grows about five inches long and is slender. It is medium green in color. As with Heavy Harvest, this too only had a few ready to be picked.
‘Royal Burgundy’ is a 55-day variety that generally grows about five inches long. It is a slender bean with a deep purple coloring that is very beautiful and makes it very easy to see against the green foliage. Again, there were only a handful of beans to be found, but we are hopeful that with a little more time, they will start producing more.
‘Tendergreen Improved’ is a 52-day variety. The coloring, although still green, had a bit of a lighter, yellowish undertone compared to the other green beans. These beans are a little longer, growing up to six inches in length and is also plumper than the other varieties. The thing that is most impressive about Tendergreen so far is the yield. While it makes sense that there are more harvestable beans of this variety right now because its “days to maturity” (DTM) is shorter, this variety is still likely to out-produce the other varieties – but we will keep you updated!
So how do they cook up? Using a quick, identical technique on each variety, we tested them “tender-crisp” style. After the ends were trimmed, a ¼ cup water was added to a skillet along with the beans and cooked covered for three minutes. Then the cover was removed to allow the water to fully evaporate. A touch of butter was then added to each.
My personal favorite is the Tendergreen Improved. It was the most tender of the four varieties tested as well as the most prolific producer. Tenderette and Heavy Harvest where just slightly tougher than Tendergreen. Although the most unique to look at, the Royal Burgundy was the toughest of all the varieties, but interestingly, it turns from purple to green when cooked.
One final note: there was some significant stippling on the leaves of the beans, which is an indicator of spider mites. Spider mites are tiny, barely visible spider-relatives that suck juice from the underside of leaves and are common during hot, dry weather.
As a first defense against this garden pest, after harvesting the beans, we used the garden hose with a jet spray setting and shot the underside of the leaves with as much coverage as possible, and we plan to repeat this process a few times a week. Hopefully these pesky critters won’t ruin the harvest!
Click here to learn more about growing beans or spider mites.
By: Maureen Wilbeck, Master Gardener
Growing in the Garden
Every day there is something new growing in the garden. The spring and early summer have been challenging this year, leaving us with some good examples of what can go wrong (and right!).
First, the obligatory whole garden view for the week. Lots of green and growing!
A few weeks ago we found our bean leaves all Swiss-cheesy, almost overnight. Well, big munched holes usually mean a caterpillar or a beetle. In this case, Bean Leaf Beetle. Because we didn’t catch them right away, we opted to spray with permethrin, which took care of them. If you want an organic option, pyrethrin is the best choice.
And more holes in the cabbage leaves! These were caused by tiny, young grasshoppers. We opted not to spray the cabbage because it was closer to harvest and…
…it was also pretty clear that the cabbage was not enjoying the heat. The red cabbages in particular bolted (went to seed) before developing any significant head. They may have performed better in a spring where it warmed up more gradually. They may also do well if fall planted. But this spring…not so much.
We did get a couple partially formed heads of the red cabbage. You can see the scorched interior leaves. But isn’t that a neat internal head color! No filters used in the photographing or editing of these pictures!
We have reached the flowering stage for a lot of things. This is the flower of a new, trailing ornamental oregano, ‘Amethyst Falls.’
We are used to beans with white or maybe purple flowers. However, the ‘Scarlet Emperor’ Runner bean has bright scarlet-orange flowers. They are just starting to open this week.
This isn’t a flower…but it’s still cool! We have over a 18 different pepper varieties this year, mostly growing in containers. This variety is called Fish, and not only does it have striped / variegated fruit, the leaves also show variegation.
That’s it for this update. Come visit us to see more of what’s going on in the garden.
Friday PhotoEssay – July 14, 2017
Like many local gardens, our Demonstration Garden is seeing the onset of a wide range of insects, diseases, and weather-related challenges. On the surface though, it is beginning to look like a rather overgrown jungle of green.
With the tomatoes and vine crops throughout the garden, everything is starting to look a little crazy, and I’m afraid it will only get worse before it gets much better. Of course, on the surface, everything looks beautiful. But at closer inspection, it’s not quite as pretty.
While the cracked tomatoes are by no means an uncommon sight for the Kansas gardener, it can be downright frustrating when they are cracked to the point of mushy rottenness before they are remotely close to ripe. Not to mention disgusting when you stick your finger into a rotten spot while trying to pick what looks like a good tomato. That is what happened with these two Cherokee Purple tomatoes. The combination of watering, rain, heat, and variety has made these tomatoes mush before their time. Normally we recommend harvesting before full maturity to prevent the worst cracks, but that doesn’t work in this instance.
The beans are well on their way to being crispy due to spider mites. The mites seem to have gotten started a couple weeks ago, and the progression has been such that nothing seems to help. Normally we would recommend either a hard stream of water, neem oil, or horticultural oil as a treatment. However, with the heat and high population, it will probably be time to pull these plants out in the near future.
A couple of the melon varieties have a few disease lesions on the leaves. It isn’t very severe at this point, probably because it has been relatively dry until last night. We haven’t opted to treat yet, partly because the plants are so large, but it is important to keep an eye on things like this, because it can spread quickly. In hindsight, it would have been smart to treat before last night’s rain.
What sad looking onions, you say? Well, yes. But not really. The onions flopped over at the necks is an indication that the plants are done growing and the onions can be harvested. We pulled all the onions this week, some from the Grocery Garden and the rest from the Peruvian Garden.
Just so you don’t think that all is death & destruction in our garden this week, here are some of the cucumbers we harvested. The dark green variety is Tyria, and English cucumber that had very small seeds and relatively thin skin. The white one is Lime Crisp, which was supposed to be more of a lime green color, but looks almost white. It was sweet, but had larger seeds.
Finally, the watermelons! We have several melons set and growing well. We bagged / nyloned all of them this week to ensure they can stay on the vine and keep growing well. Since we selected larger melons this year, they likely still have a few weeks of growing to do before harvest.
Have a great weekend!
Friday PhotoEssay – September 2, 2016
It’s hard to believe that it is somehow September. I associate September with fall, and the nights are certainly getting cooler, but the garden still looks like a summer jungle.
I both really enjoy this garden season – when everything is still mostly lush and overgrown – and get really annoyed by it! Primarily I get annoyed when I have to try to get from one end of the garden to the other, as many of the paths are encroached upon by plants that have gotten floppy.
Speaking of floppy, lush, and overgrown, the ‘Esterina’ cherry tomato continues to impress. It had a couple weeks of slower production (probably coinciding with earlier hot temps), but has bounced back with a vengeance. The plants themselves are not overly attractive anymore, but who cares when you have this many scrumptious tomatoes to eat?!?
In the “overgrown” category, we found this bean hiding amongst all the leaves and vines on the trellises in the Oriental Garden. It is one of our Winged Beans that we gave up on months ago and planted the Chinese Long Beans. Apparently at least one of the plants survived and has finally started producing a few pods. If you think it looks like a green bean or pea pod with green feathers sticking out the corners, you would be right.
Yet another case of both lush and overgrown, the purple pole beans on the trellis in the purple garden are quite jungle-ish and have finally starting producing in the last week.
There was a point earlier in the season where I didn’t think the hops were going to reach their full potential this year. Clearly I was wrong on that count! In the past few weeks they went from barely covering the tomato cage to having grown all the way up, and then back down.
With so many peppers in the garden this year, I sometimes feel like I’m doing Friday Pepper-Essays. Just one pepper picture this week! This is the Tabasco pepper plant. The peppers start green, fade to pale green, then turn orange, then red. I’ve started looking up homemade hot sauce recipes!
Have a great Labor Day weekend!
Friday PhotoEssay – August 5, 2016
We have hit our stride with summer produce over the past couple weeks, and unlike some years, there really aren’t many signs of decline around the garden…yet.
Although, in the interest of full disclosure, we did remove the cucumbers that were in the accessible beds. They were pretty sad at this point. The rest of the garden looks a little bit like a jungle. I find myself dodging plants that are trying to take up space in the aisles when I walk through the garden.
We chopped and incorporated the other areas of buckwheat this week. One section was to prevent it from going to seed. The section pictured here we needed to clear so we could plant fall veggies in a couple weeks. A couple of our Master Gardeners brought hedge trimmers to do the chopping step with the buckwheat, then we used spades and garden forks to turn it under.
Here’s the post-turning shot, in case you were curious what it looks like. It takes buckwheat only about 2 weeks to decompose sufficiently once incorporated.
Some of the purple peppers are beginning to color. This variety turns orange, then darkens to red. I think this in-between stage is a pretty cool look!
The Chinese Long beans are starting to produce, which is always fun. The challenge with them is that I’m always torn between the desire to leave them on the vine to see how long they get and knowing that for optimal eating quality they should be picked at about 12″ long.
We harvested the bulk of the grapes from our grapevine this week. We have a ‘Himrod’ grape, which is a green-gold, seedless table grape. The skins are a bit tough in some cases, but the flavor is exceptional. They taste nothing like grocery store grapes.
Just to wrap up for today, another quick look at our Pollinator garden. Since our last look, the passionflower vine has reached the top of it’s trellis. Everything else seems to be doing well, and we have had some caterpillars on things.
Have a great weekend!