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
Garden Recipe Roundup
When we have some less common veggies in the garden, I always try to cook something with a few of them to show how they might be used and to give them a fair taste test. Many of you know that I’m not a huge fan of eggplant, but I decided that I should give an eggplant dish a try anyway. I also made stewed okra and tomatoes, because I’ve never really cooked with okra before and wanted to try it in a form other than breaded and fried.
First up: Thai Fried Eggplant with Basil
I like Thai food, and we had all the recipe and sauce ingredients on hand, so it worked out well. I used the green Oriental eggplant, the yellow ‘Escamillo’ sweet peppers and one of the purple sweet peppers, one of the Round Purple Asian eggplants, a red onion from my home garden, and a couple ‘Gong Bao’ peppers from my home garden in place of the serranos. I also used Thai basil rather than regular sweet basil.
I found the sauce to be a little heavy, flavor-wise. It probably needed a bit more acid, maybe some lime juice. Overall, it wasn’t bad (for eggplant). The texture still isn’t my favorite, but it wasn’t completely distasteful.
Next up: Stewed Okra and Tomatoes
I used the okra and tomatoes from the garden, including some of the big okra that is larger than would typically be ideal. The ‘Ladyfinger’ okra that we are growing is supposed to be tender and usable even at larger sizes, so I wanted to test that out. I would say that it was nice and tender after the stewing, up to about 10″ long. After that, the pieces were still a bit fibrous and woody. I doubt a longer cook time would have solved the problem.
Both recipes were fairly easy, did a nice job featuring the vegetables, and were tasty. If you are looking for a recipe to use for eggplant or okra, give these a try!
Friday PhotoEssay – September 25, 2015
It is the last Friday in September, and while the sad appearance of the tomatoes and squash certainly bear this out, it has been warm enough that it doesn’t really seem like fall yet.
We took out a couple more tomato plants this week, and in doing so made an unhappy discovery:
Roots infected with nematodes! UGH! This is actually a pretty bad infestation because the roots are very swollen and knobby. Well, the nematode-free soil was nice while it lasted. As we continue to remove tomato plants, we will keep a close eye on the roots to see how much of a problem it is. It may be confined to just a section of the bed, and we will try to manage it using rotations, non-susceptible plants, and nematode-suppressing plants.
For comparison, the roots on the left/on top of the others are healthy tomato roots. Nice and smooth, slender, and white.
Our Saturday Sampler this past weekend featured a wide variety of recipes made from the Cushaw squash, including this scrumptious pie. Here are the recipes in case you missed them: Winter Squash
These are from the ‘Chef’s Choice Orange’ plants. (Except the one Italian Gold.) The plants look like they are winding down, although I found several hidden tomatoes this morning. Several of the fruit also look like they have some Bacterial Spot, which is a little abnormal for this time of year, but not too surprising given the colder, rainer spells we’ve had. There’s nothing to do about it now, other than use the tomatoes quickly.
If you would have asked me a couple of weeks ago if the Blue Lake Pole bean was going to grow up the trellis, let alone flower and produce beans before it got too cold, I would have called you crazy! But look at this…flowers, and tiny green beans!
Have a great weekend!
Friday PhotoEssay – September 18, 2015
The garden continues its downhill trend for the fall. The tomatoes may still have some green fruit on them, but I’ll be honest that they have reached the stage of ugly where I just want to yank them out. We harvested quite a bit of squash this week and planted some late spinach seed for the fall.
Our last Saturday Sampler of the year is tomorrow, and we’ve been busy in the kitchen chopping and prepping some of the squash from the garden. We estimated that we have at least 15-20 cups of cooked squash right now. Yikes! Come out to the Demo Garden at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19th to learn more about growing and cooking winter squashes.
This is just a portion of the Green Striped Cushaw. It is really tasty! It is always a good start when the vegetable that is insect and disease resistant is also flavorful. The cushaw has a nice yellow flesh.
This is one of the ‘Fairy’ squash that has a much more orange colored flesh. We haven’t cooked it yet to compare flavors. SPOILER ALERT! We’re making this one into chili for Saturday.
I guess we’re going backwards in time here. This is our “haul” from the garden this week. We harvested a bunch of butternut squashes, some tromboncino, and a couple more cushaws.
Some of the lettuce survived the caterpillar onslaught and some didn’t. This plant survived, only to have a grasshopper hanging out in the center on Monday morning. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another!
Sorry…I just had to break out a Swiss Chard photo to end the week. We’ve let it go for a couple weeks and it has gotten bigger quickly. It is one of the few things in the garden that is still looking spectacular!
Have a great weekend!
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.
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.
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.