Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lesson Learned

Strolling along the river with our dog Mars, I was enjoying the sights and sounds of a warm, sunny autumn day. Suddenly, I spotted a bush brimming with beautiful, crimson fruit.  I stopped dead in my tracks delighted at my find.  Four days away from Thanksgiving and I had just stumbled upon a stand of high bush cranberries.  Thanksgiving dinner with fresh cranberry sauce - can it get any better than that!

Just look at these beauties!

I picked a couple of handfuls and returned home.  Of course, it didn't take long to remember that high bush cranberries have a very distinctive odour.  Their smell, does not resemble their attractive appearance at all.  In fact, the words repulsive, nasty, and disgusting come to mind.  

I opened the windows and carried on, determined to make the most amazing cranberry sauce ever!

I washed them.

I boiled and separated them.

I added sugar and turned them into jelly.
I even filled two jars with the jelly, hoping things might mellow overnight.  But, no matter what I did, that smell and bitter taste could not be deterred.  Even, Darryl, my brave husband, who tasted the concoction the following day, couldn't find anything polite to say.  Sadly, this experiment failed miserably.
But I was reminded of a very important lesson.  Don't judge by appearance - it's what's inside that counts!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Freezing Celery

Melanie's celery, despite being overtaken by her tall, beautiful, lanky cosmos, did very well this year. As a result, we have more celery than we can use right away.

Luckily for us, celery can be frozen. Of course, it will loose it's crisp texture, but we usually just use it for cooked recipes anyway, so limp celery is just fine with us!

June 2010
September 2010, hidden beneath the cosmos
There seems to be some debate about blanching or not blanching celery.  While it's a little bit more work, we're fans of blanching.  Blanching stops the enzymes that affect the texture, colour and flavour of vegetables even in the freezer.  I never believed there could be that much difference between blanching or not blanching until a terrible pea experience last year.  Based on a convincing internet tip I read, I froze some peas without blanching.  While they looked fine, their sweet flavour was destroyed and I ended up tossing them because they tasted like 10 year old frozen peas.  Now, we blanch everything - even celery.

September 30 (2/3 of our celery harvest)

Trim and wash the celery

Chop to desired size

Blanch for 3 minutes

Cool in ice water for 3 minutes

Dry and freeze

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dried Bush Bean Recipe

Out of curiosity we left our green, yellow and royal burgundy bush beans in the garden long after they stopped producing tasty tender beans.  By the end of September, we had quite a few dried beans along with some really tough beans.  We decided to pick the dried pods and leave the tough green pods for the compost pile.

After we shelled them, we had about 3 cups worth of dried bush beans.  We also had a few questions:

  • Is there an official name for dried bush beans?
  • Will they make good seed for next year?
  • Can they be used in any dried bean recipe?

A Name
What do you call dried beans from yellow, green and royal burgundy bush beans?  Can't seem to find an answer to that one.  Do you know?

If they are nameless, perhaps we can be the first to name them!  Any ideas?

Seed for Next Year
These aren't fancy beans that we're talking about.  They're the standard McKenzie seed package that you can buy in any store.  The label doesn't say anything about GMO's, Hybrid, Heirloom or anything else that would indicate that they could or could not be used as seed for next year.  We thought about putting a couple beans in water to see if they germinate - but that would only tell us if they germinate, not necessarily if they'll produce beans next year.

We're betting that they'll produce and have saved enough "seed" for next year.

Cooking with Dried Bush Beans
When we searched for dried bean recipes, one recipe came up so frequently, that we just had to test it out - Cajun Red Beans with Rice.  Of course we modified the recipe since our beans aren't red, we're Manitoban and we like using Cavena Nuda.

Here's what we ended up with: 
Manitoban Dried Bush Beans with Cavena Nuda
A crockpot recipe that's easy, but takes time.

the dark brown beans are from green wax bush beans and the lighter ones are from royal burgundy wax bush beans and the green beans are french cut scarlett runner beans

2 cups dried bush beans (or any other dried bean)
1 tbsp canola oil
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 cup chopped celery
2 dried cayenne peppers finely chopped
2 cups vegetable broth
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp corn starch
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 cup scarlett runner beans (fresh beans, not dried)
salt and pepper to taste

1 cup brown rice
1 cup cavena nuda

Wash and rinse beans at least two times.
Place beans in a bowl and cover with water about 2 inches above the beans.
Let soak overnight.

Rinse beans.
Place in crockpot.

Heat canola oil in a fry pan.
Saute onions, garlic and celery until soft and tender.
Add to crockpot.
Add chopped cayenne peppers, vegetable broth and Worcestershire sauce.
Turn crockpot on low and let cook for 8 hours or until beans are tender.

Dissolve cornstarch with a little water and add to bean mix to thicken the sauce.
Cut fresh beans into small pieces (or french style).
Add green beans and parsley to crockpot.
Season with salt and pepper.

Place rice and cavena nuda in a pot.
Add 3 cups water.
Bring to boil.
Reduce to simmer and cook until brown rice is tender (40 minutes). Cavena Nuda will not get as soft as the rice, so use the rice as the indicator of doneness.

Serve beans over brown rice and cavena nuda mixture.

Serves:  4 adults for one meal or 2 adults and 2 picky children for two meals

The verdict:
Our Manitoban dried bush beans worked very well in this recipe.  The texture and taste were just like any canned beans you can get in the store.

The Cajun recipes often included ham or sausage.  I can definitely see how that would add to this recipe.  Next time, I think we'll try it with browned sausage meat or bits of Manitoba farmer sausage.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Scarlett Runner Beans

Scarlett Runner Beans
This is the third year that we've planted scarlett runner beans (year 2 and 3 were from dried seeds collected from year 1).  We've always admired the beautiful red (I mean, scarlett) flowers that they produce in huge abundance, but we've never actually ate the beans - until this year.

What a wonderful surprise to discover they are as tasty as they are beautiful.  Not to mention that they attract beneficial pollinators for other plants in the garden and they provided a great canopy (8 feet high) for Mars on those hot, sunny days.
A great spot for Mars.

We only picked the tender beans, some as long as 10 inches!

Using this french bean slicer was great for these big beans.
Boil for 5 minutes to stop any enzyme action.

Cool in ice cold water, drain and use in your favourite recipe or freeze
And, check out the great dried beans that we collected at the end of September.

We know they're good as seed for next year, but we haven't tried cooking with them - yet.  We'll see how our experiment with the dried bush beans goes first.

I wonder if we could turn these into edible jewellery?

Do you have a favourite dried bean recipe we could try?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Preparation for 2011

The veggies are all gone, but there is still some work to do at the garden.

Now's a good time to prepare the soil for next year.  Last fall, we added compost manure to our plot, this year we chose to add a 4 way soil mix.  It's a mix of top soil, compost manure, peat and sand.  We hope it will lighten the clay and add vital nutrients to our heavy clay soil.  Five yards is a lot to shovel, but only adds about 1 1/2 inches of depth  in our 30x40 plot.  Once that gets turned over by the plow, it will seem minimal, but if we keep at it every year and if we add some of our own compost, I'm sure it'll give our veggies a boost.

After the plowing is done, we'll plant some garlic and even some strawberry plants given to us by a gardening neighbour.  Apparently she's had great success, despite having to remove the plants for a few days each year while the plots get plowed.  

Until then, we've got our work cut out trying to store, freeze and use all those veggies stashed in our garage.
The last day
Melanie's cosmos on the last day

Mars eagerly (but thankfully, not successfully) digging for mice 

5 yards of 4 way soil mix

An hour later, the plot is ready for plowing.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Final Harvest 2010

Yesterday was the final harvest at our community plot for 2010.  Here was our final haul:

Dried beans
The scarlett runner beans (the big pods), the green bush beans and the royal burgundy bush beans all had these dried pods.  We collected them for both seed for next year and for dried bean recipes.  This is the first time we'll cook with dried beans from the garden.  Right now we've got some of the dried beans in the crock pot for our version of Cajun Red Beans and Rice (they're not red beans, we don't have any ham and we'll probably use cavena nuda but other than that we'll follow the recipe - well sort of).  You'll know if it works out by whether or not I post the recipe!

Celery and cabbage
Apparently, you can blanch and freeze celery.  Judging by the amount of celery Melanie grew, we're going to have to try out that technique.

We weren't the only ones to harvest our leeks - the night time garden robbers helped themselves to some as well.  Maybe they'll share a recipe with us!  We're considering putting up a sign in our garden next year "Please pick 5 weeds for every veggie you take!"

As for an example of a recipe that I didn't post - Leek, Potato and Purple Carrot Soup.  What started off as a well intentioned idea to use up all the things we hauled from the garden one day, turned into a very visually unappealing soup.  The taste was good, but just imagine the colour you get when blending green, cream, purple and orange.  Oops! We'll have to try Leek and Potato soup (sans carrots) again.

Carrots - yes, more carrots!
Have I mentioned what an amazing year for carrots this has been?!  Here's the last batch of carrots we dug up.  The carrot/rhubarb cake I made last week was OK, but not good enough to share.  Still experimenting on that one too!

A hollowed out, mouse house
 And finally, we had to bring this zucchini home for show and tell.  The family of mice that were living underneath our zucchinis did an amazing job on this zucchini.  There were two holes on one end and the inside was completely hollowed out.  Pretty impressive, if you can get passed the fact that there was a family of mice running around our garden.

Well, that's it.  All in all, an amazing, bountiful and delicious gardening year.  I can't even fathom having to buy fresh veggies from the grocery store again.  Store bought tomatoes?!  It's going to be a long winter!!!