Tag Archives: beans

Shelling Beans


I really enjoy the task of shelling dried beans at the end of the season.  They pop right open and the beans are easily removed.  It’s satisfying to fill up a bowl with dried beans and then run my hand through them, thinking about how months ago I planted a few beans in the ground and now I have a whole bowlful to enjoy.

This year I planted Turkey Craw and Good Mother Stallard both from Seed Savers Exchange.  From the SSE online catalog you can purchase beans for planting and bags of beans for cooking.  So it’s not too late to place an order for some quality dried beans even if you didn’t plant any yourself this year!

Beans are a nutritious, filling bang-for-your-buck food and no pantry should be without.  I’m glad I grew some of my own this year.  And though I didn’t get a huge harvest, I am happy to have been a part of the process of getting this staple into my pantry.  Maybe next year I’ll try a new variety or grow more.

And I should mention, if shelling beans doesn’t thrill you like it does me… it’s a great activity for the kids to do.  My five year old LOVES to shell the beans and it keeps him busy for awhile.

See what I did with last year’s bean harvest.  Beans: Really Slow Food

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Photos from the second week of July.


The tiny flowers of the allysum are perfect in my pots.

Beans in the making.

This sunflower has two heads!

Fennel is ready to be harvested. Young fennel is more tender than the larger bulbs later in the season.

Lovely little chamomile flowers.

Within the last few days the dill has produced flower heads.

This purple clematis is tucked in between our fence and house, about 3 feet between the two. The flowers can be viewed from my daughter's nursery window and are putting on quite the show!

This has been the best year so far for my hydrangea, so many blooms!

Planning my garden, graciously.


Working a small urban garden requires creativity and planning.  With limited space and sometimes odd sun and shade patterns, a gardener needs to have a strategy for working the space.

My 2010 garden was the first garden I planned in which I purposely planted early and late crops, tall and small crops, quick growers and slow growers together but in harmony with one another in order to make the most of my space.  For a first timer, I did pretty well! 

Before and after, the vegetables filled in the entire space.

In one raised bed I started the season with peas, lettuces, arugula and radishes.  As those were being harvested, the cucumbers began to take precedence in the space, happily climbing up trellis in the middle of loose leaf lettuce.  I was picking the cucumbers by the time the pumpkins really needed to sprawl out, and was able to pull out the cucumber vines when they were done producing so that the pumpkins could have the whole bed to themselves for the end of the season.  When pumpkins were done in October, I planted garlic.  The garlic will kick off the 2011 season when it shoots out of ground in about a month.

Peas and lettuces fill this bed in May and June.

By the end of June, cucumbers are climbing up the trellises.

Pumpkins take over the space to close out the season.

 

In the other bed, things got even crazier.  Carrots were planted in a line down the entire length of the bed, dividing it.  They took a break in the middle of the bed to give the leeks a 1′ x 1′ space to grow.  I only grew 8 small leeks in that space, but they did grow!

Beneath tomato plants, I planted beets; next to those, marigolds.  Cabbages and radicchio were neighbors to the spinach.  Beans grew on both sides of the bed, and in the last remaining space I put fennel seedlings. 

Close quarters for the fennel and beans.

Leeks filling a small space.

Marigolds, tomatoes and beets.

It was about mid-season when I realized how much the sun was affecting one corner of that bed.  A tree was keeping it shaded for a few hours more than the rest of the garden, so the beans on that side did poorly.  And the insects really liked the damp microclimate that was created by the shade.  This was compounded by the fact that things were planted closely together, essentially shading each other.  This year I will know this and plant accordingly. 

There are many ways to plan a garden, I prefer to sketch things out beforehand, making sure I’ve got a spot for everything.  Besides the raised beds, I use pots and flower beds along my house as well.  All of these end up on my sketches, labeled with the intended occupant.

Once I’m out in the garden putting the plants in, I often make changes to my plan.  It’s the gardener’s prerogative I suppose.  Sometimes something doesn’t feel right, or look right.  I change it.  Sometimes what seemed like a good idea during a February planning session turns out to be a ridiculous idea in reality.  I’m open to that.

Last year I wanted to grow celeriac–arguably the ugliest vegetable.  I love soup made with celeriac, onions, apples and potatoes in the fall.  It didn’t work out though.  Turns out celeriac needs to be started really early, and my plan didn’t call for that.  When I realized this I had to make some changes.  No big deal though.  A garden is a very fluid thing.  It ebbs and flows.  It changes itself depending on sun, water and other weather conditions.  The gardener takes a cue from the garden itself and adjusts accordingly.

I’m working on my 2011 plan right now.  It looks like I’ll need to buy some new supports for beans.  I also need to think about how many vining plants I can realistically grow in a small space.  I’m so tempted to try melons and squash as well as cucumbers, but how to manage so many vines?  It really does require a plan, and probably some prudence as well.

I’m reminded of The Parable of the Sower (Matthew, chapter 13)  in which the farmer scattered seed over various surfaces with equally varied results.  We all know you can’t grow a seed on a path, a rock or among the thorns.  Good soil produces good results.  Likewise, God’s Word works on the soil that is ready to receive it.  My heart needs to be a vessel of good soil, ready for God to work it.  I can’t let the thorns take over my heart or let someone or something steal the Word from me because I’ve covered my heart with a path.  And I certainly don’t want God to find a rocky place when he comes to sow his seed. 

I’m making my garden plans, and I’m also preparing my heart for God.  It’s something I am reminded of when I think of my garden and the act of sowing seeds.  I know my heart can be a beautiful garden filled with the scent and beauty of God’s love.  “But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it.  He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”  Matthew 13:23

I hope my garden here at home is as abundant as that in the parable!

An "abundance" of eggplant grows next to the house.

Beans: Really Slow Food


 

Tongue of Fire beans.

About a year ago, I decided I would grow some pretty little beans that would add color and interest to my garden.  I did not have a long-term plan for the actual dried beans, but I thought it might be nice to have them.

Now it is time to do something with these beans.  This is new territory for me, I’ve never cooked a dry bean in my life.  And like anyone who has nursed anything into existence, I’m a bit reluctant to get started for fear of messing something up.  After all, these beans have been a year in the making.

I first chose these beans from Johnny’s Seeds based on their lovely color photo and the promise that these Tongue of Fire beans retain their flavor no matter what you do with them, and could double as snap beans if I chose to pick them early.

I was pleasantly surprised when they poked out of the ground in early June, ahead of the other beans I had planted and much healthier looking.  They further pleased me by not being eaten by whatever ate the other beans.  I’m not sure if it was the sunny location, or the constant tending by my son, but these beans looked great for the entire season.  They were the beauties they promised to be.

Bean seedlings emerge, sharing space with marigolds and tomatoes.

 

I’ve decided on a recipe for Pasta and Bean Soup from We Called It Macaroni by Nancy Verde Barr.  This cookbook is written in such a way that it’s hard for me to stop reading Nancy’s personal stories and anecdotes.  I’m drawn to her simple Italian bean recipe by her memories of running her hand through the bags of dried beans at the local Italian market of her childhood.  She has a knowledge and love for beans!  How perfect.

I love this Italian American cookbook.

 

It’s a multi-step process to take beans from dried to mouth-watering.  And let’s not forget the months already spent growing the beans, the weeks drying them, and the time they’ve spent on my pantry shelf awaiting this day.

Out of the jar and ready for action.

 

There is so much to love about these beans.  Each bean has its own unique design, and the colors are terrific.  (Please forgive some of these photos… apparently a snow storm is not the best time to photograph food in natural light.)

Pretty beans.

 

I have to admit I had some fun playing with these beans in their dried form.

 

Now that I’ve had my fun making bean arrangements and photographing them, it’s time to begin the bean bath.  Dried beans need to be soaked overnight, or they can be subjected to the “quick soak” method which involves heat and less time soaking.  For my purposes, overnight soaking worked just fine.

Following the overnight soak, they were drained, put in a pot with cold water to cover 2 inches and a bay leaf, brought to a boil and then simmered for an hour.  I couldn’t resist stealing a few from the pot here and there and calling it a “taste test”.

The cooked beans had a pleasant texture and great bean flavor.

Soaking and cooking the beans.

 

Now the beans were ready for the recipe, twenty-four hours after I pulled them out of the pantry and one year since I purchased the seeds to grow them.

Beans were added to the Bean and Pasta Soup, then served with a smile. Delicious!

 

I think the lesson here is that sometimes slow is good, really good.  In a world where we are accustomed to instant gratification, it seems odd to wait so long for a bowl of bean soup.  It might even be kind of backwards if I thought about it too much.  I could probably buy a bowl of bean soup for $2.00 at the local deli.  Instead, I’m sure I spent at least that much on the envelope of seeds.  I had to use garden space and water to grow the beans.  It took time and energy.  Cooking them involved even more time, the purchase of a few ingredients, and of course that dreaded chore: cleaning up the kitchen and dirty dishes.  It was an effort that seems a bit out of proportion to the result.

Or was it?  As a gardener, I get so much satisfaction out of eating something I grew.  Especially when it turns out so well.  As a mom, I am able to glean so many lessons from the simple task of making this soup.  My kids know how a bean grows, they know what a bean–both raw and cooked–tastes like.  They know the joy of running their hands through a bowl of dried beans, just like Nancy Verde Barr remembers from her own childhood.  They know that God gives us the resources we need to provide for ourselves and our bodies, if we will just put in the effort.  They help with measuring, stirring, “taste tests” and serving the final product.

We pray over this bowl of soup: “Come Lord Jesus, be our Guest; and let these gifts to us be blest. Amen.” 

We look outside, where a five-foot snow drift rests against our patio door.  How awesome is it to enjoy something from the garden on a particularly wintry day when I can’t even walk out the door if I wanted to?  It is awesome indeed. 

It was worth the wait!