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July 29, 2010

How to Prepare Red Runner Beans

I keep being asked how to prepare these particular beans.

Here are the culprits - picked and ready to go. You usually pick these beans when they are quite large and notice how they are flatter than your average green bean.

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They tend to have stringy sides which need to be cut off. So start the first cut as in the picture below

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Then continue the cut down one side of the bean as below

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When you get to the bottom of that side of the bean, turn and then cut down the other side.

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Now the stringy sides are gone, you have to cut little diagonal slices like below.

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Voila!
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Now steam or boil for as long as you would normally cook pole beans and enjoy their superior taste.

July 16, 2010

Tomatos Hit the Scene

At last the tomatoes are coming in!

The Bay Area has been experiencing some pretty cool temperatures for the time of year. Every gardener I have talked to has also been waiting for the usual glut of tomatoes to appear only to be thwarted by the unseasonable low night time temperatures that have been slowing everything down. Suddenly that has all changed and now the heat is most definitely on.

Below is one variety of tomato that I haven't tried before. This is a cherry tomato called Sunsugar Red. Below you can see them ripening on the vine.

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I waited quite a long time for these little cherries to turn red - as in "Sunsugar Red". After a few weeks of waiting I impatiently tried one anyway and discovered delightful juicy sweetness. After all that waiting, they were already ripe, but just not turning red, as the label suggested they might!

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The picture above shows just how orange - or in this case NOT RED - these little cherries really are. Compare the label color to the real thing.

So if you are waiting for this variety to ripen - don't wait any longer! Dive in and eat! They are delicious albeit not red.

Back Yard Farming

I was recently sent an article about Back Yard Farming in Minneapolis. It is very interesting. Take a look at:

http://www.ajchomefinder.com/gardening/rent-a-farmer-growers-568943.html

July 9, 2010

Lunch Today

Every single thing I am eating for lunch today is fresh from the garden, except the bread. But we bake our own bread and we make healthy whole-wheat.

We are having broccoli, beans, cauliflower, chard, all steamed together, and cherry tomatoes.

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July 7, 2010

Water Saving - 900 gals or more a year

Want to save on water usage? Here is one thing I do.

I keep a bucket in the bathroom. Not the most visually pleasing thing to look at but they do come in different colors. Each time I take a shower, the hot water takes for ever to get warm, the hot water heater where I rent being a long way away from the bathroom. So I collect the water in the aforementioned bucket which holds around 2.5 gals. I made sure I could lift the bucket (this is a good tip).

I then water plants/container plants/dry grass spots with this water.

If each bucket holds 2.5 gals.
Each week I use 17.5 gals this way
Each month I use 75 gals
Each year I use 912.5 gals

I got my husband to do this too, so multiply each number by the amount of people in your household you can persuade to do this.

Often I use this water in the front yard where I am in full view of the neighbors who probably think I'm some weird old person doing something weird that old people do (that is people over 50!)

A friend of mine uses all the water that would be wasted at her kitchen sink - this is also a good idea, to have a jug close buy to tip wasted liquid into it and then go water the plants.

I still think the bucket idea is better though because you get a workout too!

July 5, 2010

Red Runner Beans

I can never forget the taste of the large flat green beans that are so common in England but so rare in the US. We called them runner beans - I guess because they run up the strings or poles that support them. Unlike pole beans that are shaped like small cylinders, the hearty runner bean (or red runner in the US) is long and flat. They have to be prepared with a paring knife by stripping the two sides of the rather stringy tough exterior, and then slice them before boiling or steaming. They taste remarkable and are really worth the trouble.

I learned a lot about growing these beans last year - it being the first time I had tried to grow them outside the UK. I waited all Summer and alas was disappointed with a distinct lack or beans. There were not many flowers either - and hence no beans. I read up on reasons why this may have happened and figured out that I planted them in an area that was a/ too hot and b/ at times they dried out. This is enough to stop all flower production and where there are no flowers - no beans. It was too late to save the situation with extra watering. I also learned that this plant has a tropical history and will keep on vining away until there is a frost! Interesting huh?

This year I have planted them again in hopes of those delicious beans! and this time I situated them where they may even get a little shade in the afternoon and no relflected heat from the side of the house and of course I have been very careful to keep them moist. Right now they are a riot of red flowers - absolutely gorgeous to look at and if you look at the photo below - small beans are forming! Already there are more beans forming than I got to eat the whole of last season! I can't wait!

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Little red runner beans forming amidst a riot of red flowers

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They make such pretty vines and flowers.

July 4, 2010

Reasons To Grow A Garden

There are some great reasons to grow a garden in a post up at Huffington Post, by Dr. Andrew WeilFounder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, titled Fat or Carbs: Which Is Worse?

From the post,

Science writer Gary Taubes has done more than anyone else to deconstruct the Keys mythos and replace it with a more sensible view, informed by better science. I recommend his book, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control and Disease. It presents more than 600 pages of evidence that lead to these conclusions:

  1. Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, is not a cause of obesity, heart disease or any other chronic disease of civilization.

  2. The problem is the carbohydrates in the diet, their effect on insulin secretion, and thus the hormonal regulation of homeostasis -- the entire harmonic ensemble of the human body. The more easily digestible and refined the carbohydrates, the greater the effect on our health, weight and well-being.

  3. Sugars -- sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup specifically -- are particularly harmful, probably because the combination of fructose and glucose simultaneously elevates insulin levels while overloading the liver with carbohydrates.

  4. Through their direct effects on insulin and blood sugar, refined carbohydrates, starches and sugars are the dietary cause of coronary heart disease and diabetes. They are the most likely dietary causes of cancer, Alzheimer's disease and other chronic diseases of modern civilization.

My point here is not to promote meat consumption. I've written here previously about humanitarian and ecological reasons to avoid a meat-centric diet, especially if the meat comes from factory-farmed animals. Instead, my purpose is to emphasize that we would be much healthier as a nation if we stopped worrying so much about fats, and instead made a concerted effort to avoid processed, quick-digesting carbohydrates -- especially added sugars.
There is much more at the original link. This is great information for your health, and a great reason to be growing food!