My second article of this season’s Globe & Mail column was published last Saturday: BEANS! It’s still not too late to get started. When I wrote and submitted the article we were experiencing a very hot and dry spring: great weather for planting beans. Immediately after the article was published the weather turned cold and wet: not so great weather for planting beans. What? Regardless, the beans I planted are popping up through the soil and look great. No rot or germination problems. Get those beans going!
Oh and if you’re wondering what I narrowed it down to: ‘Royal Burgundy’, ‘Dragon’s Tongue’, ‘Trionfo Violetto’, and two types of ‘Yard Long’ beans (green and ‘Red Noodle’). Basically everything I wrote about in the article. Writing the articles tends to renew my own excitement about plants or specific varieties I haven’t grown in a while.
This is me back in January in St. Lucia standing next to a gigantic tripod of ‘Red Noodle’ beans and holding one up against my arm for length.
While I’m on the topic of the Globe & Mail: I’ll be doing a live web chat tomorrow, Friday, June 11 at noon EST over here.
Whenever I get a new pack of bean seeds I am always immediately compelled to open up the packet and inspect the beans. I used to play out this ritual with all seeds but years of seed purchasing and collecting has garnered a familiarity with certain seeds. It’s not that I’ve lost my love for seeds, but that it gets a bit repetitive. After all, while every tomato is different, the seeds are virtually identical. Yes, of course there are variations in size, shape, fuzziness, etc but those differences aren’t exactly interesting. At least to me they’re not.
Beans on the other hand are like beautiful jewels, each is unique in size, shape, color, pattern, and texture. Some are naturally shiny, others dull. There is even variation between seeds of the same variety. I’m a little embarrassed to guess at how much time I have clocked fondling a pack of 20 seeds, turning each one over in my hand. Actually, no I’m not. I think a lot of gardeners will confess to this same ritual. Beans are pretty.
And that is why I was able to spend an inordinate amount of time yesterday afternoon stewing in my own sweat inside a gigantic winter jacket and chatting with Colette of Urban Harvest about beans. She had some new varieties for sale this year, some of which she brought back from Slow Food’s Terra Madre Conference in Turin, Italy this past fall. And even though I already have more packs of beans than I can get into the ground within the next few seasons, I couldn’t help buying more.
Here’s what I got:
- ‘Christmas’ lima bean – You know, I’ve never grown lima beans. I’m kind of on the fence about them. I like them well enough, just never enough to bother growing them. Colette also confessed to a leave it attitude towards lima beans so when even she could speak so enthusiastically about this variety, I knew I had to try them. ‘Christmas’ is described as having a “nutty, chestnut-like taste and the texture of baked potatoes.” SOLD! They are also drought tolerant, which is handy since I will probably try growing them in a large bin on the roof. I probably would have hesitated and waited until Seedy Saturday in a few weeks to get them had Colette not mentioned that she only had two packs left and was probably going to save the last pack for herself. And once I had one pack of seeds in my hand the ball was rolled. And I rolled with it like the sucker I am.
- ‘Blue Jay’ bush bean – I’m not yet sure about the pods but was sold on this variety by the blue and white seed description. That and a general fondness for blue jays. Remember The Green Forest? That’s basically it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: tell me a good story and I’ll buy your seeds. Although, this wasn’t even much of a story, but more about a personal sentiment that hit my weepy heart in the right place.
- ‘Tiger’s Eye’ bush bean – Another bean described as having a creamy, mashed potato texture. And… sold. I rarely worry about adding to my bush bean collection since I can usually find a container to grow them in.
Sounds like meat, as opposed to accompanying meat.
- ‘Bacon’ Bush Bean – I am guessing it doesn’t actually taste like bacon although meat lovers everywhere would like for someone to get on that, stat!
- ‘Caseknife’ Bush Bean
- ‘Bloody Butcher’ Tomato – Don’t hurt me!
- ‘Jack Rabbit Kidney’ Snap Bean
- ‘Deer Tongue’ Leaf Lettuce – Has got to be a delicacy somewhere in the world.
- ‘Goose Liver’ Bush Bean
- ‘Butter and Bull Heart’ Tomato – This variety is even described as “meaty.”
- ‘Lea’s Supersteak’ Tomato – Sounds like a steak eating contest.
- ‘Top Sirloin’ Tomato
- ‘Bull’s Blood’ Beet – I really love growing this variety. The dark burgundy leaves are gorgeous paired with silver and chartreuse plants.
Another Seedy Saturday Toronto has come and gone and like last year I managed, with great effort, to make it around to a few booths and pick up some seeds. The event was more packed than ever this year making it nearly impossible to leave my brother/assistant alone at the table for any length of time or push through the crowds lingering around some of the larger seed sellers. The sellers I did manage to get to were often sold out of items on my wanted list. And forget the Seeds of Diversity trading table. I had high hopes but only managed to snag a pack of red orach seeds. Next year I plan to employ the strategy of browsing during setup, BEFORE the crowds arrive. Next year.
Here’s what I managed to bring home with me:
- Red Orach – A trade pack harvested from Jackman Public School’s Learning Garden.
- ‘Early Yellow Crookneck’ Squash – A trade with a You Grow Girl forums member. I thought I needed squash but then got home and realized I have several varieties in my stash. This is why I should have brought a list.
- ‘Dragon’ Carrot – Another trade that I already have. ‘Dragon’ is a beautiful purple carrot. If I had to choose I suppose I favour it over ‘Purple Haze’ although ‘Dragon’ would crumble in a Best Name competition.
- Love Lies Bleeding – I’ve been trying to grow more amaranth over the last few years and ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ is a classic that never gets old.
- ‘Blue Spice’ Basil – Another trade. I don’t think I have grown this variety which is kind of amazing since I’d swear I have covered just about everything in the unusual basil category at least once.
- ‘Purple Calabash’ Tomato – I fell in love with its ugly beauty last year. I am planning to grow less tomatoes this year and have not finalized my list as-of-yet. Who gets cut will be the hardest decision I have to make this year.
- Painted Lady Sweet Pea – I just love the fragrant sweetness of sweet pea flowers but tend to steer clear of them due to their attractiveness to aphids. I decided to try my luck and grow a few varieties this year. I can always pull them out if things get nasty. This variety really does look like the runner beans of the same name. I know it seems redundant to grow them when I can just grow the beans later in the season but I can’t cut those flowers and I am really craving cut sweet peas for my desk.
- Persian Broad-Leaf Cress – I have grown a number of pepper cresses but like that this variety is described as milder than other cresses.
- Tendergreen Mustard Green – I’m on a personal mission to try growing just about every salad green under the sun.
- ‘Queen Anne’s Pocket Melon’ aka ‘Plum Granny’ – I’m planning to grow some melon this year but admittedly this one was an impulse buy and not on the list. ‘Plum Grannies’ are tiny melons known for their intoxicating fruity smell. I can not resist a good back story and the story for these citrus-sized melons is that Victorian women carried them in their pockets to fight street stench. The thought of two of these in a breast pocket has me thinking about another derivative of the colloquial use of ‘melons.”
- Swiss Chard ‘Ruby Red’ & ‘Golden Sunrise’ – I’ve grown the ‘Rainbow’ mix and other coloured varieties but these two are my favourites for their saturated colours that look so beautiful in containers of contrasting colour or as a burst of brightness tucked beside boring veggie varieties.
- ‘Selway’ Lettuce - Brightly coloured greens are another edible trick I employ to brighten dull corners and containers. Consequently I am always on the look out for a good red variety. We’ll see how these fair against ‘Lolla Rosa’ aka ‘Lollo Rosa’ which still reigns as my favourite red.
- ‘Cimmaron’ Romaine Lettuce – An unusual romaine with a deep, reddish purple hue.
- ‘Yugoslavian Red’ Butterhead Lettuce – A really beautiful butterhead variety with shades of green tinged by deep red.
- ‘Black Spanish’ Radish – I’m very curious about the flavour and how to eat this root vegetable.
- ‘Black Jet’ Soybean – I have to admit I bought these for the dark bean colour. I’ve had a lot of success with soybeans in containers on the roof but that dang groundhog just LOVES to eat the plants as they emerge from the soil at the community plot.
Don’t forget to enter the Haiku Contest!
Well it turns out that the squirrels just up and left of their own accord. I have no idea why they would want to leave considering the cornucopia of delights waiting just outside their front door, but I’m not about to complain. And with their leave the peas have flourished. The ‘Carouby de Maussane’ plant has grown lush and has been pumping out pretty flowers and fresh peas on a daily basis.
I admit they rarely stay on the vine long enough to make even a small handful — nothing lasts very long since I tend to munch on whatever’s available when I’m out there with the watering can.
I’ve been very happy with this variety and will definitely grow it again. The plants are slowly starting to reach their end with the full heat of summer kicking it out on the rooftop. I’ll let them go for as long as they continue to produce and may just start a fresh crop in late summer when the intense sun and heat subsides out there. Or I’ll replace the plants with something else — I haven’t decided. I started another crop of the dwarf ‘Tom Thumb’ variety a few weeks back and they’re getting close to the flower-producing stage. They grow in smaller containers so I can control their heat exposure more closely. In the meantime fresh beans are starting to form from pretty purple flowers in another container across the deck. Here they are looking like microscopic penises!