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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.

A bean that’s ready to harvest

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.

Stippling on bean leaves

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!

Spraying spider mites off of under side of bean leaves

Click here to learn more about growing beans or spider mites.

By: Maureen Wilbeck, Master Gardener

SNAP-Ed Garden Update

Last week we had our first harvest of red saladbowl lettuce, spinach, and radishes, and finished off the harvest this week. We also planted some transplants including a variety of peppers, tomatoes, parsley, and basil; as well as seeds including green beans, zucchini, and cantaloupe.

interplants YYplant bnz

The green beans have sprouted, the tomatoes and peppers are growing bigger. We also experimented with branches, and made our own tomato cage!

Tomato Cage Y

We made a tomato cage out of branches to show how inexpensive gardening can be if you were to reuse items that are commonly on hand, such as tree branches, tied with some twine at the top.

Like I said, in the past two weeks, we were able to harvest red saladbowl lettuce, spinach, and radishes. We took this harvest, weighed each item, and compared them to grocery store prices. Below is how much you would be paying at the grocery store for how much produce we’ve grown so far:

Radishes – 87 total – worth $23.09 at the grocery store
Spinach – 1 lb 4.8 oz – worth $3.13 at the grocery store
Red Salad Bowl Lettuce – 1 lb 7.5 oz – worth $14.10 at the grocery store

Year to Date: $40.32

One of our SNAP-Ed Nutrition Educators was able to use the spinach and red salad bowl lettuce tossed with the radishes and some added carrots for a tossed salad in one of her SNAP-Ed classes at Inter-Faith Ministries!

Grocery Garden Harvest Report – July & August

How time flies when it’s summer and there’s lots of produce! It has been two whole months since I updated you on the harvests, yields, and value of the Grocery Garden bed.

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July: 

Venice Beans: 3.175 lbs @ $4.00 per lb = $12.70

Purple Dragon Carrots:7.85 bunches @ $3.00 per bunch = $23.55

Yellow Carrots: 7.5 bunches @ $3.00 per bunch = $22.50

Cylindra Beets: 4.5 bunches @ $3.00 per bunch = $13.50

Gold Beets: 0.3 bunches @ $3.00 per bunch = $0.90

Red Marble Onion: 0.99 lbs @ $1.50 per lb = $1.48

Bride Eggplant: 0.675 lb @ $5.99 per lb = $4.04

Esterina Cherry Tomato: 2.025 lbs @ $4.00 per lb = $8.10

July Total: $86.77

August: 

Bride Eggplant: 2.56 lbs @ $5.99 per lb = $15.34

Esterina Cherry Tomato: 5.25 lbs @ $4.00 per lb = $21.02

Escamillo Pepper: 14 peppers @ $1.25 per each = $17.50

Red Knight Pepper:3 peppers @ $1.25 per each = $3.75

Spaghetti Squash: 7.80 lbs @ $1.50 per lb = $11.70

August Total: $69.31

Year to Date Total: $276.28

As you can see, we’ve had some great yields on many things and decent yields on others. However, our total value continues to pile up. Over $275 from 100 sq. ft is pretty good! And we have been planting for fall, so there is more still to come.

Friday PhotoEssay – July 28, 2017

We have hit the main harvest season for summer vegetables, even though the spider mites are a severe trial to most of our plants. This seems to be a horrendous year for spider mites, and in a lot of respects, the best we can do is to just wait for cooler weather.

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From the surface, everything looks green and healthy yet, which is nice. You can also see that the Grocery Garden is half empty currently – after harvesting the remaining root vegetables, it is awaiting fall plantings, soon to come!

36087784501_3079efe80bI harvested about 35 tomatoes today, in large part because so many are cracking that we are trying to harvest before they get very ripe. These are nine different Cherokee Purple tomatoes at a range of stages of ripeness. The lower left tomato had fallen off the plant and is hopefully at mature green – meaning it will ripen off the vine eventually. I prefer to wait for color. The other two bottom tomatoes had also fallen off, but have just a tinge of pink. It’s hard to see in the picture due to the light, but they do have small pink streaks at the blossom end. The rest you can see the color change more easily.

36182041256_b9a1c3784dThe ‘Legend’ tomatoes had the most fruit today (17) off of only 3 plants (one plant has a weird virus or mutation and isn’t productive). They are mostly cracked, so still not great from that standpoint.

36182044166_ffe1e27624We are still seeing some rotting tomatoes too. This one is really frustrating, because one tomato started rotting, but we didn’t catch it and remove it. It then infected two more not-yet-ripe tomatoes that might have otherwise been okay. Ugh! Rotting tomatoes are the worst!

36010911962_a73f42f6c1We also harvested our ‘Himrod’ grapes this week. For the second year in a row, our vine has yielded very well, and the grapes taste great, even if they are much smaller than we are used to seeing in the grocery store.

35788277090_9c5c29a090Our melons are also starting to reach ripe stages too. When I checked the tendrils for browning on Tuesday, there were several that looked ready. We tried the ‘New Queen’ (orange), ‘Mini Love’ (red), and ‘Musketeer’ honeydew (white in the background). The orange melon was a tiny bit over-ripe. The red was perfect. The honeydew wasn’t very close to ready. I will say it was a bit of a shock to the system to have a seeded melon for a change! Yesterday I came across a ‘Maverick’ cantaloupe and one of the ‘Gold Crown’ watermelons (yellow rind, red flesh) that was ripe. We tried them too. The cantaloupe was okay but not spectacular. The watermelon was very good.

Have a great weekend! If you don’t have your own, go find some seasonal, local produce!

Grocery Garden Harvest Report

It’s been almost a month since the last harvest report, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been harvesting.

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We had a stunningly beautiful harvest this past week, with gold beets, purple carrots, green beans, and more!

I’m not going to break this down by week, just lump everything all together. The lettuce and arugula are now pretty much done for the first part of the year, while we have just been pulling the biggest beets and carrots. The onions will probably be ready in a couple more weeks, and the beans are just getting started. I also expect to see ripe tomatoes by next week. 

June Harvest Report

Baby lettuce: 3.6 lbs @ $5.99 per lb = $21.56

Arugula: 17 oz. @ $5.99 per lb = $6.36

Romano Beans: 10 oz @ $4.00 per lb = $2.50

Gold Beets: 1 bunch @ $3.00 per bunch = $3.00

Red (Cylindra) Beets: 1 bunch @ $3.00 per bunch = $3.00

Yellow Carrots: 1.5 bunches @ $3.00 per bunch = $4.50

Purple Dragon Carrots: 3 bunches @ $3.00 per bunch = $9.00

Red Cippolini Onion: 2.2 oz @ $0.49 per oz = $1.07 

June Harvest Total: $50.99

Year to Date Total: $120.73