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Cooking Our Garden-Grown Beans

I know it has been awhile, but waaaay back in the summer we were growing some different beans in the garden. In the Italian garden we had some borlotto beans growing and in the Indian garden we had both chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and cowpeas (black-eyed peas) growing. We harvested them and shelled them when they were dry, and they have since been sitting on bags on my desk, waiting for me to do something with them. This week was the week! I made a different dish with each type of bean so that everyone could sample them.

Step 1: Sorting

I’ve always sorted the beans when I buy bags of dry beans, but usually you are looking for small rocks and things like that. In this instance, I wasn’t concerned about rocks. I was concerned about looking for moldy beans (stored before fully dry) or damaged beans (primarily munched on by bugs).

Here are the culls. There were quite a number, particularly cowpeas, that had been munched on. Different challenges with homegrown beans!

We ended up with about 3/4 cup of the ‘Black Kabouli’ Chickpeas, 1.25 cups of the cowpeas, and 1.5 cups of the Italian borlotto beans.

To put that in context a bit more:

18 sq. ft of Italian borlotto beans yielded 1.5 cups.

17.5 sq. ft. of chickpeas yielded 3/4 cup.

17.5 sq. ft. of cowpeas (that sprawled everywhere) yielded 1.25 cups.

So…certainly not a spectacular yield. It’s not to say they weren’t fun to grow, but they are more of a novelty item that a really productive use of space.

Step 2: Soaking

If you’ve never cooked dried beans before, after the sorting step you need to soak them overnight.

These are the Italian beans. I put them in a large bowl and covered them with plenty of water.

By the next morning they had absorbed quite a bit of water and were nicely puffed up.

Step 3: Cooking/Par-Cooking

Because the recipes I wanted to use called for canned beans, which are essentially pre-cooked, I decided to cook the beans plain first, and then save them for the recipes I wanted to try.

I put each type of bean in a pot, covered them with water, added a little salt, and turned on the heat. They took about an hour of simmering to get to the cooked-but-not-mushy stage. Sorry, I didn’t take any pictures. Pictures of beans boiling is only slightly more exciting than pictures of beans soaking, and I already subjected you to those!

After they were cooked, I drained and rinsed them, then refrigerated them to use later.

Step 4: Cooking into Something Tasty

I wanted to use each type of bean in a semi-authentic recipe, so the next step was finding the right one.

Chickpeas

I was planning to make hummus with the chickpeas, but the skins didn’t crack when I cooked them. I didn’t want to take the trouble to remove the skins and making hummus with the skins on would have resulted in a gritty, grey-colored hummus (the chickpeas had black skins). I ended up making Crispy Roasted Chickpeas. There are about a thousand recipes on the web for different spice variations if you care to try several flavors. I used cumin, coriander, salt, and cayenne pepper. You toss the chickpeas in olive oil and the spices and then roast them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until crispy. Ironically, the skins and whole peas split while roasting, after refusing to split while boiling. Oh well.

Italian Borlotto Beans

For the Italian beans, I found a recipe for Fresh Stewed Borlotti Beans that called for fresh rather than dry beans. We were past the “fresh” stage, obviously, so that’s why I par-cooked the beans first. Beyond that, it was pretty straightforward. Cook the aromatics (celery, onion, garlic) in oil, add the beans, tomatoes, and parsley. Cook until the beans are the texture you prefer.

The beans had an interesting nutty and sweet flavor, so I didn’t cook them down too much. They were softer than they started, but still pretty much whole, not to the mushy stage.

Cowpeas

The cowpeas had ind of an interesting grassy/earthy taste after the initial cooking. Not bad, but very different from the other two. I decided to make a Cowpea and Potato Curry using them.

If you don’t routinely cook this type of dish, it is the one that you will probably have to make a special trip to the grocery store or a specialty store to find all the ingredients. We cook a fair amount of Indian-inspired food at home, so I have all of the spices on hand. Things you may not have include: cumin, turmeric, garam masala (you can find it at Spice Merchant if you are in Wichita), fresh mint and cilantro, garlic-ginger paste (or fresh ginger to make your own).

This recipe starts by sauteing the onions, garlic, ginger, and spices, then adding the potatoes. After a few minutes you add the chickpeas, tomato puree, water, and simmer until everything is cooked. Last you add the mint and cilantro paste and cook a few more minutes. Served over rice, it will make a great vegetarian meal.

So, that is that! I have to say that cooking dry beans that you grew yourself do taste even better than cooking dry beans from the store and MUCH better than using canned beans. Each type of bean also has its own flavor profile. Still…growing dry beans is more of a fun project than anything else if you don’t have much space.

Friday PhotoEssay for July 18th

What a chilly week for mid-July! I’m a little bit sad that Tomato Day isn’t this weekend, because the weather would be gorgeous. Instead we are looking at next weekend, and the forecast looks like it will be almost 100 degrees. Ah well, it wouldn’t be Tomato Day if it wasn’t hot! 

Here’s a look at the garden for this week. The vining things continue to be crazy…except for the plants on the trellis over the walkway. Oh well, at least plants aren’t falling on our heads this way. 

Can you guess what this is? I know that’s a risky proposition in our garden this year. This is the ‘Sambar’ cucumber, which is the cooking cucumber that will be yellow with brown spots when ripe. 

Even though the rain was kind of slow and drizzly and the weather wasn’t too hot, some of the heirlooms are still cracking. This is a ‘Pink Russian 117’ that is just starting to turn but is already showing some cracks. Many heirlooms are prone to cracking due to thin skins. The best way to prevent problematic cracking is to pick the tomatoes as they are just starting to ripen, especially if there has been rain. 

This is the Amana Orange. I’m pleasantly surprised by this variety. I thought for sure it would have the lowest yield and be late producing. It seems to have relatively good fruit set for an heirloom with this size fruit. 

The chickpeas have pods! I haven’t found very many, but they are there. The pods are so small, and I think they will only have one or two peas per pod. I suspect we will have a fairly low yield! 

One of these things is not like the other… Look at that weird cucumber! Oh, wait, it’s not a cucumber. That is a bitter melon or bitter gourd. The variety we are growing is supposed to be harvested at about 8-10″ in length. We picked two on Tuesday and I’m sure there will be more to come. Now to find a recipe…

Have a great weekend! 

Friday PhotoEssay – July 11th

It’s been a couple weeks since we had a Friday PhotoEssay, which means that I missed taking a weekly whole garden picture last week. I did take one on Monday and again today, but the big change that happened was last week, I think. Tell me what you think: 

 This is from Monday.

 And this is from today. Other than the shadows, I’m not sure I see a big difference just this week. 

But then, this is from June 27th. Just a little bit of difference, right? 

And look what I found this morning! I picked them to ripen on my table over the weekend because heirlooms are very prone to cracking, especially when the weather is hot and the soil is moist or wet. The two brown-colored tomatoes are Black Krim. The yellow is a Northern Lights, and the pink one is a Pink Russian. The Pink Russian and Northern lights are somewhat under-ripe yet, compared to the Black Krim, but I didn’t want to risk them cracking over the weekend. 

 Isn’t this almost the coolest flower you’ve every seen on a vine plant? This is the flower on the Snake Gourd vine. I’ll be honest that I wasn’t expecting that! I just assumed the flowers would look like any other cucumber or squash flower. I had to Google it to make sure that we were growing the right thing! I found this article on Snake Gourds from Mother Earth News.

The Herb & Flower garden continues to be gorgeous. I really need a shadier day so I can get a good picture of it, although most of the flowers are pretty small to get good saturated color from a non-close up picture. I guess you should just come see it in person?

The chickpeas have started blooming too. That’s a much smaller flower than I was expecting, much closer in size to a bean flower than a pea or cowpea flower. They are still pretty sparse too. Maybe that’s what we should expect growing an heirloom variety? 

This is just a blooming week, I guess! These are flowers on the peanuts.  

Have a great weekend! I hope you are starting to enjoy some tomatoes!