Friday, July 29, 2016

Summer crops - beans, beans, beans!

Grow Journey's bush beans planted in-ground in 'the farm's' 120-ish square foot section of our Carroll Gardens backyard are painted pony (I still don't know if that's 'Painted Pony,' single apostraphe for a cultivar, or if it is the general name given to that spotty kind of bean...), which are plain green and very prolific, and 'Dragon's Tongue' - which produces fat white scarlet-striped bean pods.

You wouldn't think that a couple of four-foot rows of beans could produce a daily crop. Or maybe you would. If you are a seasoned bush bean grower. Which I am not. Our bean trellis in Harlem was my first personal attempt, and yes, those did well.

Once beans start they don't seem to stop. Better than $5 a pack at the local greengrocer.

The Frenchman claims that painted pony beans - above - squeak. But perhaps that is because I steam them till barely tender. I like to eat a bowl of hot, squeaking beans with some butter, salt and pepper.

When cooked the 'Dragon's Tongue' beans are softer than the squeakier ponies. We also have some climbing 'Trionfo Violetto,' grown from Harlem-saved seed, and a scarlet runner bean, planted very late, in hopes of luring a hummingbird or two.

I chill wilted hot-day beans in an ice bath to keep them fresh. 

Daily beans mean daily cookings. Above, a handful of beans was dry-roasted with cauliflower in a stove-top pan with olive oil, lemon juice and cumin. It was the substantial side to some small merguez-type sausages from the friendly Damascus Bakery on Atlantic Avenue (the purple things above are grapes, for the chilled ajo blanco in the jug). Beans also love soy sauce.

In hot and sticky weather a salad of raw red peppers, beets and grated red carrot is topped with steamed beans. Olive oil and lime juice as a dressing.

And don't forget the Ni├žoise.

Back in early summer, when roses were in their first flush (not overheated and eaten by leaf miners, yet), these crops were still just plans. Now they are dinner.

The most recent seeds-of-the month arrival I planted was exciting (especially for a forager): Chenopodium capitatum, known commonly as strawberry spinach.

When I log onto my Grow Journey account I read the following: "In spite of being native to North America, strawberry spinach, also known as beetberry, was rediscovered as a food plant in European monastery gardens that date back to the 1600s. This odd little plant is related to spinach, lamb’s quarters, orach, magenta spreen, and quinoa."

We'll see how the "odd little plant" fares against the weeds and the leafnipping birds while I am in Cape Town. The birds decimate two crops: summer savory (I have tried twice) and fenugreek, but will not touch basil or salad leaves like arugula or lettuce. The strawberry spinach is an unknown.

Stay tuned.

For a taste of how Grow Journey membership works you can always sign up for a free 30-day trial which will deliver either three or five packets of seed to you, depending on your garden's size. Dip your toes in the water.
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