Sorry. I couldn’t resist. I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything, but I really have been busy. Spring has hit and with it all the to-dos that have to be done. Add to that a nice trip to the Oregon coast…
…and I’ve had plenty to write about but not as much time (or energy!) to do it.
Yesterday and today I’ve been planting beans in the garden. Someone remarked they thought I was a little early but I’ve always planted now or even earlier and never had a problem with the beans not growing.
One of the plantings I did was a “rescue” of some Ireland Creek Annie beans I grew a few years ago. Or, I should say, I tried to grow. It was a terrible year for Mexican bean beetles and I ended up with literally only a couple dozen beans from my entire crop of this variety and the others didn’t fare much better. Today I planted them all out in the hope of increasing my supply. I’m pretty confident that if the beetles don’t get them this year I’ll have plenty again.
You see, I speak from experience. Above is the pile of beans I grew from a single seed of Cherokee Trail of Tears that we obtained. (Sorry it’s so blurry. I haven’t gotten any better at photography during my hiatus.) I’ve planted a few dozen of these this year on poles and expect a good amount from this heirloom pole variety. We had some for dinner last night and they were pretty good.
A few months ago I finally got around to trying something I’ve wanted to do for some time. I made and canned some baked beans. I did two small batches at the same time, Great Northern (left) and Jacob’s Cattle (right.)
For the sauce I used sorghum syrup instead of molasses. I’ve made baked beans with molasses before and just didn’t care for the flavor. The sorghum ended up tasting much better.
Throw in some bacon with the beans, add the sauce and bake. Both batches ended up needing much less time than anticipated to cook. I’ve found this is the case with home-grown beans. Must be because they are so fresh.
Here’s the pressure canner I got through Craigslist. I only had to replace the gasket and it was as good as new.
Voila! Baked beans. I thought the sauce was a bit watery when they went in the oven and then into the jars but after canning it thickened up to a nice creaminess. We go through quite a few cans of baked beans in a year. But I’m thinking now between my mad gardening skills and a functioning pressure canner we won’t be buying cases at Costco, much as we love beans!
We don’t eat green beans very often. The first couple of years that we gardened we grew a few but were finding most went to waste. Then I discovered how easy it is to grow beans to the fresh shelling and dried stages. Not only do we end up with seed we can grow again next year, but there are so many different dishes we like that can be made with them: soup, chili, casseroles, cassoulet, baked beans and any number of Mexican dishes.
One of my little rituals I enjoy is picking a bag of the dried pods and then sitting on the deck cracking them open and dropping the beans into a bowl on my lap. I like to call it “Shellin’ Beans and Reminiscin’” because of the old-fashioned, homey feel of it, even though I don’t do much actual reminiscing during the process. Still, it’s a pleasant, meditative activity that’s a nice end to a gardening day. Sometimes I’ll pick the pods off several kinds of beans and let them get all mixed up during the shelling. Then I have the task of sorting them into different containers for storage, another relaxing activity. Each kind of bean looks entirely different from all the others so mix-ups are unlikely. Half the reason I choose the beans to grow that I do is their appearance. I appreciate a pretty bean.
This summer, when it felt like there were more things to do than time to do them I resorted to a more efficient way of shelling the beans. I stomped around on the pods in a tub and then only had to pick through the ones that were more reluctant to be retrieved and winnowed the contents of the tub in front of a fan in the back yard. It worked well and took less time. But I haven’t given up my old habits entirely. The stragglers that dried after the main wave have all been hand-shelled. I think regardless of how big my bean crops ever get I’ll be doing at least some of them the slow way. It’s a great part of the pleasure of growing beans.
There really isn’t much to this recipe but a friend asked about it so I thought I’d try writing it out. It’s just something simple I threw together to use some fresh shelled black beans I had on hand. My Black Valentine bushes produced a second flush of pods late this summer that didn’t have time to ripen and dry before the cold weather hit. You can, of course, cook dry beans to use or even resort to canned beans if you absolutely have to.
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 1/2 medium white onion, diced
- 1/4 cup peppers finely diced — blend sweet and hot to taste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 cups diced whole tomatoes
- 2 cups cooked black beans
Heat canola oil in a saucepan and in it sauté the onion and peppers. When they’re softened, add a couple cloves of minced garlic and chili powder. Sauté half a minute more. Add tomatoes and cook until they’re soft. Dump in the black beans and simmer gently to blend the flavors, about 20 minutes. Salt to taste and serve. When I made this I purposely tried to primarily use produce from my own garden and did pretty well. Only the oil, chili powder and salt were purchased. I’m looking into making my own chili powder but it’s going to require a better cumin crop than I had this year–which would be any cumin at all. I was inspired to try the bit of frying the powder with the first round of veggies from a lot of the Indian recipes I’ve made. I believe the theory is that the more intense "dry" heat brings out the flavor and toasts the spices before adding the liquid component. In any case, this was tasty for being so simple. Doubtless there are many variations I could try, especially in the home-grown vegetable department.
Today I decided to pick a couple of the largest pods from our Windsor Broad Bean or Fava Bean plants, Vicia faba. They’re getting big! I’ve never grown them before so I have no idea how long to let them grow. The first few I got were pretty undersized. The thickness of the pod is deceiving because it’s lined with a thick, spongy material. I’ll be blanching these and then peeling them before deciding what their final fate will be.