Beans Produce Lots of Healthy Meals

Seneca Bear Bean flowers
I like growing beans. Every year I plant way more than we can use simply because I like to see beans grow. We give lots away - I've found people will accept beans, or most vegetables, provided you pick them, put them in bags and deliver the produce to them. But try to get someone to actually pick their own, not many are willing! Anyway, the bean you see above is one of the Native American varieties I grow. This one is a good shelling bean, traditionally it was grown between rows of corn and allowed to vine up the cornstalks. That doesn't work as well with our shorter sweet corns most people grow now, so I grow these on trellises. They're worth growing just for the flowers, which look a bit like Scarlet Runner beans, but different.
White Dixie Butter Peas
Dixie Butter Peas are a prolific Southern variety known as "peas" rather than beans, although closely related. They're more like a lima bean, although limas don't do well in our hot, dry summers in the Midwest. The are a bush bean, producing lots of pods held atop the plants for easy picking.
Zipper Cream peas

Zipper Cream Peas are another bean variety I'm especially fond of, and also holds its pods up above the plants. While they may look like a snap bean, the word, "zipper" in the name tells you they have a string on the edges. Not an easily pulled zipper string. You have to let these mature until the peas inside are large enough to shell. Very small ones can be snapped, but not the larger ones. But they cook rapidly and the flavor is about the best of any bean/pea I grow. To cook: Melt a bit of butter (or for tradition's sake, fry a piece of diced up bacon) in a pan. Add the Zipper Creams and a small amount of water. Cook for about 6 - 8 minutes or until tender. They just melt in mouth!
Zipper Creams and a few Dixie White Butter peas on the right side.
The most prolific of all the beans I grow are the asparagus or long-beans. Every year I plant at least one variety of long bean, preferably the Chinese Red-seeded Long Bean. Baker Creek was out when I ordered in the winter so I bought the Chinese Green Long Bean, then later they had the Red-seeded in stock and I planted both. I have about a 10 ft long row and it produces so fast I have trouble giving them away.
Note the red line and marker on each end, showing the length of the row.
Just one day's picking, about 6 pounds.
The long beans produce about 6 pounds every other day. It's necessary to keep them picked in order for them to keep producing. If you keep them picked, these beans will continue producing right up to frost. When people ask me, "So what do you do with them?" I grit my teeth and hold my tongue. What I want to say is - they're beans, what do you do with any other green beans? But I keep quiet and give a simple answer. They are beans, green beans, you can snap, can, fry, freeze, steam, boil, whatever. Leave them longer than 2 days on the vine and they'll become shelling beans. They taste fantastic and anything you can do with any other bean, you can do with these. No strings, either!
Chinese Red-Seeded Long Bean flower
The long beans bloom in pairs and always set 2 beans off the same stem. Like lots of other beans, they're almost worth growing just for the blossoms.
Another Native American bean I'm partial to is the Potawatamie Lima, which I've grown for many years. It's a dry-shelling bean and comes in a pod that looks like a canoe. I leave them on the arbor until frost has killed the vines and the pods rattle like, well, rattles.
Potawatamie Lima beans
 They're a big-arbor bean. This one, below, is about 7 ft. high, 4 ft. wide and the beans cover it completely.
Potawatamie Bean arbor.

These aren't the only beans I'm growing this year, I also have Christmas Limas, Climbing Purple Royalty and another one or two, but they aren't big enough to show much of what they're like. Plus, a packrat had taken abode in the garden this past week and had been cutting down bean plants and hiding them in its nest. Thank goodness for Molly. The packrat is now compost.
Thank you, Molly!
Visit my website, we have several Summer Specials this week including Critter Ridder bug repelling soap, several of my books are on special and a few other things. Stay cool!


Five Exciting Ways to Use Basil

A bed of basil varieties in bloom.
We're at the height of the basil season. As long as basil gets enough water, and you remember to keep the flower stalks pruned back (unlike in the photo above where all of the basils are in full bloom) then  your plants will be producing non-stop. The more you prune, the better the flavor. But have you run out of things to do with your basil? Of course you are probably making lots of pesto and freezing it for winter (my recipe for fool-proof frozen pesto is on this page).
Basil, garlic, Parmesan, olive oil, nuts - regular pesto.

Here are 5 great exciting ways of using basil you may not have tried yet.
Dip a big pile of assorted basil cuttings in water and lay on the grill.

1 - Lemon-Basil Grilled Shrimp. 
Cut a big, double-handful of lemon or lime basil, as in the photo above. Dip it in plain water and lay the basil on a medium-hot barbecue grill. Spread 2 or 3 dozen raw shrimp over the basil, pull down the barbecue lid if you wish, and steam the shrimp for 60 - 90 seconds. Flip the shrimp over and give them another minute. The lemon basil flavor will be steamed into shrimp, giving it wonderful flavor.
Basil Lemon Ice Cream

2 - Nutty Basil Lemon Ice Cream
Karen Keb, editor of The Heirloom Gardener magazine told me about making homemade ice cream with basil this past week. She used sweet basil, pine nuts and lemon, and sounds so good I have to make some, too! Here's the link to her recipe, which she posted on the Mother Earth News website. Thanks, Karen, for sharing your recipe!

3 - Basil Pesto Burgers
Combine about 2 pounds of ground chuck with 1 medium onion, finely chopped, 1/4 cup basil pesto, salt and pepper and mix well. Form into burgers and cook on the grill. The pesto gives great flavor, you won't be sorry you did this! (This method works well with veggie-burgers, too).

4 - Banana-Basil Smoothie
Use any kind of basil for this - I like Thai, but lemon, sweet, Genovese, Greek Columnar, Purple Ruffles, it doesn't matter, they all work just fine. In a blender, put 1 frozen banana, 1 tablespoon honey, 7 or 8 basil leaves (or more, to taste) with 3 cups of milk. I add a few ice cubes, too. Blend it until smooth. For a milk-free smoothie, I use either pineapple or cran-raspberry juice instead of the milk.
Blackberry-Basil Sorbet

5 - Blackberry Basil Sorbet
I especially like Greek Columnar basil or Purple Ruffles for this recipe but any variety works just as well. (The recipe is from my book, Fabulous Herb and Flower Sorbets, on my website).
Begin with 3 cups of blackberry juice (or blueberry, etc.) Add 1/2 cup sugar, 6-8 fresh basil leaves, 1 cup of water and the freshly-squeezed juice of 1 lemon. Blend well in blender and chill the liquid for at least an hour. Pour into a sorbet maker and freeze until firm.
36 pages of herb and flower sorbet recipes.

There you have it, 5 ways of using up some of your excess summer basil you may not have considered.

Of course, there's always the old stand-by, plain basil pesto toasted on sourdough bread, too!

Fresh or frozen pesto toasted on sourdough bread, that's not too bad, either!


Tomato Harvest, Stops Leg Cramps

Veronica and Billy, look how awful the pasture is!
The drought is so wide-spread that we're kind of all in the same boat. Our pasture, above, looks dead. I'm sure it's only dormant and when it does finally rain, will come back from the roots. We've not had rain in 2 months (well, we got 1/2 inch 2 weeks ago but that barely settled the dust). We've had several days above 100 degrees, and when it gets that hot, tomatoes quit setting blooms for new tomatoes. But, here's a picture of what set on earlier.
We're harvesting about 15 pounds of tomatoes each day, mostly heirloom varieties.
Above shows part of yesterday's picking. In the basket are Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, Better Boy (which have the least taste), Champion and a few others. Favorites are Brandywine and Cherokee Purple.
A new zinnia in the garden this year.
The zinnias require almost daily watering to keep them blooming. You almost can't see the grape arbor next to the Herb Shop, for the grape vines!
Bean tipi with Christmas limas and zinnias underneath.
Compass plant (Silphium laciniatum).
Note the compass plant, above. It's about 9 feet tall and one of the tough plants that do just fine in dry weather.
Detail of flowers and leaves of compass plant.

We've added some new products to our website. Stops Leg & Foot Cramps and Stops Acid Reflux both work in about a minute and come with a money-back guarantee!

We're also carrying Critter Ridder Soap from our friends at Evening Shade Farm. It's a great natural insect repellent and we've used it for years. To see those and our other new products, visit our website.

The pansies are still surviving, looking happy in the Edible Flowers bed.
Here's hoping you have rain on your garden, where every you are!


Sweet Goldenrod Cupcakes

Sweet Goldenrod (Solidago odora)
Lots of gardeners don't know this plant but it's native across the Ozarks, down into Tennessee and other areas, too. It can be easily be grown over a wider area, as well.

Sweet Goldenrod (Solidago odora), which I thought was the only goldenrod that has uses in the kitchen, but Solidago altissima, also has an anise-like flavor. Imagine an herb that has leaves that taste somewhere between anise and French tarragon. Now imagine that flavor combined with honey and you have the flavor of the flowers.
This one grows easily in my lavender bed.
Some years ago the International Herb Association (which is meeting this week in Upstate NY) hosted a "Exciting New Plants" forum. I brought Sweet Goldenrod as my contribution and Conrad Richter of Richters Herbs, asked for seed and started offering the plants for sale from his catalog.
The plant grows about 3 feet tall, likes well-drained soil and begins blooming in July here in the Ozarks Mountains. Mine came from along the edge of pine woods in sandy soil. It grows in full to part sun. Just like any herb the leaves and/or flowers can be dried for use later, although the flavor is best when fresh.

Think you don't like goldenrod because it makes you sneeze? That myth has been completely debunked. The myth was started by a misguided ad campaign decades ago. To read the story, and why goldenrod doesn't give you allergies, read the story here. The culprit is ragweed, not goldenrod.

Susan Albert, author of those wonderful China Bayles herbal mysteries I love, wrote saying she has another variety that is also anise-scented, growing near her. She uses it for tea, so it would also be good for culinary purposes. And in checking, I see that the one she refers to, Solidago altissima, is also native to Missouri and surrounding states. See photos and descriptions here.

So, just what do you use Sweet Goldenrod for? Chop up the leaves in chicken salad, much like you would French tarragon or Mexican Mint Marigold. Add the flowers, pulled from the stems, to cake and cupcake recipes. Sprinkle the flowers on buttered toast with honey. Here's an easy cupcake recipe using the flowers. 

Sweet Goldenrod Cupcakes
2 cups flour
2 - 3 tablespoons fresh Sweet Goldenrod flowers
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup shortening (I use butter)
1 cup milk
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 12 inch cake pan - OR, place paper cupcake holders in a cupcake pan (this will make about 9 cupcakes).

In a food processor, combine the flour and Sweet Goldenrod flowers and process a few seconds to chop the flowers. Set aside that mixture aside.
In the food processor, cream the shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and remaining ingredients and blend just enough to combine well. Pour into cupcake containers and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Top with shipped cream or powdered sugar. You'll never say bad things about goldenrod again!


Creamed Corn, a Joy of Summer

Every year I look forward to corn. My father set a standard when I was a kid that I always try to match, that being, harvesting the first roasting ears by the Fourth of July. This year I harvested our first ones on July 1.

Many years ago I had an acquaintance who was a raw foods vegan - someone who ate no meat, milk, eggs, cheese, bread or cereal. Because I was in a vehicle driving with them across two states, I had time to inquire why, and how, they cold exist only on raw foods. In my mind there was a running list of things I would have to give up were I to do that: pie; bacon; iced tea; bagels - the list was long. Then I asked him, how he could give up corn on the cob, one of the great joys of summertime. "I don't," he said, "I just eat it raw." I couldn't imagine raw corn, and without butter, but when I got back home, I gave it a try out of curiosity.
The corn I grow is a variety called, 'Incredible,' and it certainly is.
What I quickly discovered was, he was right, about the corn at least. When I pick roasting ears in the garden late in the afternoon, I absolutely have to eat at least one ear before I bring the rest into the house. Fresh sweet corn, still in the garden, is as delicious as any food on earth!

When I was a child and living at home with my parents, we always ate roasting ears, steamed or boiled, for several days. Then, when there was an ample supply of corn, my mother made creamed corn. It's a dish so good we ate it with just bread and butter and sliced tomatoes for a summer night meal. Making creamed corn takes about 45 minutes, start to finish, and I learned how from my mother. Here's her method, which I have altered slightly. First, you cut the corn kernels from the cob with a sharp knife. Then with the backside of the knife blade, scrape the milky juices from the cob.
It takes about 8 or 10 ears of corn, cut off, to make a skillet of creamed corn.
Mom's method was to cut put about 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in a cast iron skillet and heat it to medium. Instead of bacon grease I use sunflower or canola oil, about 2 tablespoons. Add the cut off corn and simmer it slowly on low-medium heat. Keep it stirred or the starchy corn will stick to the bottom of the skillet and burn. After about 10 minutes of slowly simmering and stirring, add about 1/3 cup milk, stirring well.
It's important to cook this slowly and keep adding milk and stirring.
You don't want to cook this too fast, it will burn easily. Keep it stirred from the bottom so it's not sticking - this is vital. As the corn thickens, keep adding milk, an eighth of a cup at a time, stirring it often and when it gets too thick, add more milk. Simmer slowly and in about 20 minutes, the corn will be done. I chop up 2 already-cooked bacon slices into small bits and add them for flavor, then add a bit of salt and a good peppering with black pepper and it's ready.
Creamed corn, moderately thickened and ready to serve.
The flavor is outstanding, not even remotely resembling frozen creamed corn from the grocery store and you won't recognize it as even the same vegetable as canned creamed corn. I'd rather eat fresh creamed corn than cake any day!
Everything on the plate except that one little piece of chicken, came from the garden this week. The coleslaw is from last October's cabbage, heads which have been stored in the refrigerator all winter. THIS is why I garden, this is what I look forward to every season!


Garden Lilies, Holding up in Drought

Lillies in full bloom this week in my garden.
A couple of years ago I received a box of lily bulbs from Brent and Becky's Bulbs in Virginia. I've known Brent and Becky for many years through Garden Writers Association and so I was excited to get to try out some of their bulb varieties.

I'm mostly ignorant about lilies since I focus primarily on plants for eating. As far as I know, most lilies aren't edible, and even if they are, why would you want to eat them when they produce such beautiful flowers?

Lilies up close.
I planted my bulbs, in mid-spring as I recall. I think they're in the family of "Asiatic" lilies, which are among the hardiest and easiest of lilies to grow. They'll thrive in a variety of soils and growing conditions. These you see here are about 5-6 ft. tall and have been in bloom for several weeks. Even in our 100 degree days, these tough lilies have stood tall. I give the soil around them a soaking every few days but otherwise I haven't done anything special for them.
Brent & Becky's Bulbs catalog.

While these lilies are beautiful and a real joy to have in the garden, the bigger thrill is their fragrance. Our days are hot and miserable and it's evening when I get to spend time in the garden. As I weed and move the garden hoses and sprinklers around, just as the air is getting still and cooling off, the lilies burst forth with the most enchanting fragrances! Some evenings I can smell them from 25 feet away - not a cloying, too-sweet fragrance, but a subtle, enticing smell that as relaxing as it is inspiring. Who knew lilies could be such a delicious plant to grow?

These yellow ones bloomed earlier.
The yellow ones, a bit shorter, finished blooming before the taller, two-colored ones at the top of the page started. Sorry, I don't know the names of either variety. Both have multiplied and spread nicely and require very little care. I'm going to give them some fertilizer and bone meal so they will bloom even better next year.
I checked Brent and Becky's Bulb catalog today and they're showcasing their next spring's bulbs, to be planted this fall. They have a selection of some fantastical new narcissus and tulips and even in this heat, it's time to think of next spring.

I hope wherever you are, you are having pleasant weather and rain, and if you have extra to share, these drought-ridden, brown hills could use some moisture.