Saturday, December 15, 2012

End of the Year Wrap Up 2012

Last year's garden wrap up was on my other website.  In February, I decided to separate the two blogs so that this one only contains gardening information.

1. Liz from Suburban Tomato taught me how to do a space value rating for the plants I grow in my garden. Eventually, I will post what I learned from doing my own space value rating. For now, I will just say that learning to evaluate my plantings this way was very beneficial, since I have such a small garden to work with.

2. Last year, I mixed heirlooms and hybrids all together in my garden. This year, I decided to only use heirlooms. I was very happy with my heirloom plants. 

3. I learned last year that I need to plant pole beans if I expect to have enough for my family. This year I evaluated several types of pole beans (and here). I was looking for productivity. I found the one I will use for productivity: Ruth Bible beans. I also found one that had a wonderful history in my husband's family: Mississippi Cream peas. I found one that was stunningly beautiful to grow, and therefore good for my front yard garden: Louisiana Purple Podded Pole beans.  

Louisiana Purple Podded Pole Bean available from Seed Savers

4. This year, I started gardening in my front yard. I have enjoyed the experience and the challenge of growing edible things that are also beautiful. It took me all year, but I have found the bean that I feel comfortable growing in the front yard. It is the above pictured Louisiana Purple Podded Pole bean. 

5. I planted only 4 tomato plants this year. I got almost enough for daily eating, but decided that if I can grow 8 of them, I will do better. I have picked out the tomatoes I plan to grow next year, but it depends on whether or not I have the time and ability to plant from seed whether I will grow one kind or whether I will just buy transplants from Seed Savers Exchange. 

6. I didn't enjoy squash or zucchini in my garden this year at all. I don't plan to plant either next year. (Except for one or two Tromboncino Zucchini, which I was intrigued by in another blogger's site.) 

7. Since my garden is so small, it would be better use of my time and energy to plant enough of a few things that we can substantially reduce our purchases of just those things rather than trying to plant one plant of many different types of things. 

8. I saved seed from several different beans this year and plan to grow them next year. I am going to work on separating them enough to keep the seed pure.

9. I want a sunflower room for my kids next year. I looked into green bean tee pees, but felt that with the number of children that play at our home it would be better to make a 6 by 6 foot "room" out of sunflowers. Once the sunflowers get established well, I will interplant beans so that the kids will be perfectly hidden in this little "room." (Yet there will be space for all their friends, too.) 

10. It is very important to me to share my gardening experience with my children. Anything I can do to include them, or interest them in the garden is worth trying. (see above) (See also this post.)

11. Even though I am working on vegetable gardening, I realized this year how very much I missed my traditional flower garden, so I began a butterfly garden. My kids and I have all learned a great deal, and it satisfies my desire for flowers in the front yard. It works pretty well with the edibles mixed in. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Comparison of the Heirloom Beans I Grew 2012 Part 2

As I said in my previous post, this year I decided to grow several different types of heirloom beans. What I wanted was to find at least one bean that I loved enough to plant every year and save my own seeds.

I grew Scarlet Runner beans, Mississippi Cream peas, Pink Eye Purple Hull peas, Lazy Wife beans, Good Mother Stallard beans, Ruth Bible beans, Louisiana Purple Pod Pole beans and Trail of Tears beans.  I reviewed the Scarlet Runner beans, the Mississippi Cream peas, the Pink Eye Purple Hull peas, the Lazy Wife beans and the Ruth Bible beans in the previous post. 

Good Mother Stallard Beans for seed
Good Mother Stallard beans: These are common beans. They will cross with other common beans, but not with cowpeas or scarlet runner beans. By the time I got around to planting these beans I had grown weary of counting beans, so I only counted the number of seeds I saved. The harvest was not very large for the amount of beans I planted, but I did get enough beans for seed. for spring. I saved 187 beans for seed in spring.

With these beans I like the flavor so much that I threw out the productivity component. I plan to plant them in spring even though production was very low compared to the other varieties I tried. The leaf rollers and the bugs that eat the seeds did attack this planting much more heavily than any of the other beans I planted all year long. That may play into the low number.

According to a post on the Seed Savers Exchange forum, one should expect 120 beans per bean planted. I got substantially less than that. I planted 40 beans, and about 28 of them grew. If the expected harvest worked, I should have gotten something on the line of 3360 beans. I got 187.

I am going to plant them again in the spring in another location. I really like these beans and want to use them for dried beans. They have a rich, meaty flavor that is so good that I served my family beans and cornbread and that is all for supper when I was taste testing the beans. (I ordered several varieties from Rancho Gordo, because I wanted to taste beans to see if there was anything outstanding enough that I should plant it.)

I hope for a better return if I plant them in another location. I have to have about 800 seeds to make a pound of Good Mother Stallard beans. I don't know if I will be able to get what I need to have meals of these beans or not. I guess if worst comes to worst, I can order them from Rancho Gordo.  I hope to work it out so that I can grow my own.

Lousiana Purple Podded Pole beans
Louisiana Purple Podded Pole bean flowers-- a stunning two-
tone purple 
Louisiana Purple Podded Pole Beans: These are common beans. They won't cross with cowpeas, or  runner beans, but they will cross with any other common bean. These were the last beans I planted this year. I planted them on a whim, because I had just purchased the seed and was excited to see how they grow. I planted them so late that I am sure I didn't get a good reading on productivity.

I didn't bother to count the beans of this variety, either. I did get to taste them. They are wonderful. They are also exceptionally beautiful. The stems are a deep, stunning purple. The leaves are bright green. The flowers are a gorgeous two-tone purple. Surprisingly, the flowers have a scent, a wonderful flowery aroma. They would be a great addition to a front yard garden, where they would work great as edible landscaping. They are vining plants, so you would need a trellis, but that can be done tastefully.

I planted 40 of them and about 20 grew. I was able to save a little bit of seed from my own garden and have some seed left over from that I purchased from Seed Savers Exchange. I definitely plan to have these in my garden next year. I love the color. I love the taste. I love the flowers, and the form of the plants. I love that the flowers have a scent. They are rather rare, so it will be a pleasure to help maintain a variety that is threatened. I hope to have a bigger planting next year.

Summary: I learned what type of beans my family likes and what types produce the best for us. The best producer was by far the Ruth Bible beans. The best tasting green bean for our family was the Louisiana Purple Podded Pole beans. The whole family agreed that their flavor was superior to the others. The best story definitely came from the Mississippi Cream peas. The most unique flavor was the taste of the Good Mother Stallard beans. 

So, next spring's bean choices are made. I will plant Ruth Bible beans, Louisiana Purple Podded Pole beans, Mississippi Cream peas and Good Mother Stallard beans. Now to organize my garden so that each bean is isolated enough to give me pure seed. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Comparison of the Heirloom Beans I Grew 2012 Part 1

This year I decided to grow several different types of heirloom beans. What I wanted was to find at least one bean that I loved enough to plant every year and save my own seeds.

I grew Scarlet Runner beans, Mississippi Cream peas, Pink Eye Purple Hull peas, Lazy Wife beans, Good Mother Stallard beans, Ruth Bible beans, Louisiana Purple Pod Pole beans and Trail of Tears beans.

I am going to leave the Trail of Tears beans out of my evaluations, because I had to pull them and didn't get a good read of how they grow.

This will be divided into two posts so that the posts are not so long.

Scarlet Runner bean flower in my front yard
Scarlet Runner beans: These grow better in cooler soil than any of the other beans I planted. Biologically, they are not the same (and therefore won't cross) with common beans. I planted them early, because it warms so fast in the spring around here.

They grew really well in my yard, and made beautiful flowers. They attracted hummingbirds. They weren't bothered by any pests. My family and I just didn't like the taste. If I were growing these for their beauty only, I would grow them every year. But I am not. I am trying for beans we can eat. We were completely turned off by the taste.

Okra on the left, with Mississippi Cream peas and one
little Pink Eye Purple Hull pea (the one purple one). 

Mississippi Cream peas:  These peas like it HOT. The hotter the weather the better they like it. These plants are not going to do well until the soil is properly warmed, so wait until after all threat of frost is past to plant them.  They are not in the same family (and therefore, won't cross) with common beans. They grow in long, trailing vines. In my garden, they were very aggressive, running over other plants in their eager pursuit of sunshine.

They grew very well in my garden. I loved the way they took over everything in their path. My whole family enjoyed the taste. I found out after planting them that they are an heirloom of my husband's family.  We never tried them this way, because I only found out that you can eat the pods after the season was over, but they supposedly make great green beans, too.

I cannot praise these peas enough. We will definitely grow them again and I plan to devote much more space in the garden to these beauties.

From 40 plants, I harvested 413 pods.

Pink Eye Purple Hull peas (see the picture above):  These are in the same family as the Mississippi Cream peas. They will cross with Mississippi Cream peas, but not with common beans. They grow as little bushy plants, sometimes throwing off a runner or two. These are a staple in the Southern US. I have eaten them all my life. They are available everywhere in the summer time.

I didn't enjoy growing these very much. The plants didn't do very well for me. They were covered in aphids. The fact that they grew in bushes rather than vines means that I would have to have more space to be able to get a proper harvest. The purple pods are really striking, but none of the purple pods got as long in my garden as the Mississippi Cream peas.

We will not be planting these next year. I am going to devote all that space to the Mississippi Cream peas.

Out of 100 plants we harvested 100 pods.

Left to right: Lazy Wife Beans, Ruth Bible Beans and Trail of Tears
Lazy Wife beans (also called Lazy Housewife beans): These are common beans. They will cross with any other common bean variety, but not with runner beans or cowpeas. I planted these because I liked the name and the story behind them. They were described as heavily producing beans and completely stringless. These beans are supposed to be the wide and flat variety, not the ones like haricot verts.

The bean seed I bought must have been contaminated somehow, because the beans had strings. I don't have a scale, but I carefully counted each bean pod we brought into the house in order to try to get a good idea how much production we were getting from different types of beans.

Of the beans I planted, I ended up with 35 plants. I harvested 596 pods. They were in the garden the same amount of time as the Ruth Bible beans and yet they didn't produce as many pods as the Ruth Bible beans.

Ruth Bible beans: (see the picture above, center bean)  These are common beans. They will cross with any other common beans, but not with runner beans or cowpeas. I planted these because I like the name. They are becoming very scarce.

These beans produced like "a house afire"! Oh my. They outproduced everything in my garden this year. I stared out eating them as green beans, and they have the old fashioned green bean flavor when cooked that way. I didn't like stringing the beans, and they produced so much that I had a hard time keeping up with the green bean picking, so I started eating them as "shelly" beans. Our family enjoyed the flavor much better that way.

As for numbers, they were in the ground the same amount of time as the Lazy Wife beans. I had 20 plants that grew. I harvested 901 pods. Yes. That is right. If you look at the number of plants I had in the ground, I harvested more pods off of less plants with the Ruth Bible beans. This is important for my family, because we have only a small plot of ground to work. If I can get 901 pods off of 20 plants, and only 596 pods off of 35 plants, I am going to choose the one that I can harvest more for less plants.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

You Can Always Cheat

If your seeds, little packages full of promise, don't live up to their promise, you can cheat. You can buy plants and plant them.

My spring seeds did great. My fall seeds--not so much. I planted broccoli twice. All of them died.

My cheat (please realize that I am joking. I don't really think it's cheating. I just wish the seeds had done well.)
Broccoli seedlings from the store. I am fighting a little bit of
purpling of the leaves, which is supposedly caused by a
need of bone meal (phosphorus, specifically). I have applied
bone meal. Do I need more?
I planted 100 onion seeds. All but 3 of them died. I bought sets at the store. (And forgot to photograph it.)

I planted Swiss chard twice. Only 2 came up. My "cheat".
Swiss chard by the Lincoln English peas. I have 7 more planted.
I hope they do well. I really want these this year. 
A couple years ago, I planted milkweed for the monarch butterflies. All of it died.
My "cheat."
Yellow flowers flopping over with the weight of their seedpods are
milkweed. Watch, I bet the seeds will have me overloaded
with volunteers. But the seedpods are so cool! I will have
to post pictures of them. Do you know that they gave children
money for collecting seed pods during World War 2? The seed
pods are so light that they used them to stuff life jackets for flyers, so they
paid children to collect them. Cool trivia, in my opinion.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Beans for Spring Planting

Good Mother Stallard beans saved for seed

Well, I have pulled most of the Good Mother Stallard bean plants from the garden. The ones that remain are really dead. I just haven't untangled them from the invisible trellis.

I didn't have as good a harvest as I would have liked, but I have tasted the beans (because I ordered and ate some from Rancho Gordo). I know that I want them in the garden, so I saved every single bean that the garden produced.

I ended up with about 170 seeds. That should be enough to plant a good many in the spring and still have some seed set aside. (Seed Savers Exchange always advises their members to save some of their seed in case something happens to the ones they have planted. You don't want to have a rare heirloom seed and lose it all.)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Passion Fruit Vine and the Story Behind It

Passion Fruit flower showing the styles, stamens and filaments. The
tendrils are just above and below the flower.

side view of a passion fruit vine flower showing the ten petals

a frittilary caterpillar on the lobed leaf of a purple passion fruit vine

Early missionaries to South America used the Passion Fruit Vine's flower to tell the story of the Passion of Jesus Christ. There are ten petals on the flower. Each petal represents one of the disciples that was present. (Peter and Judas Iscariot were not counted because the first denied his Lord and the second was the traitor who turned Jesus over to His enemies.)

The spiky-looking filaments represent the crown of thorns Jesus wore.

The five stamens represent Christ's wounds (two hands, two feet and his side).

The three styles represent the three nails of the cross.

The vine tendrils represent the cords used to bind Christ.

The lobed leaves represent the hands of the tormentors. (Though I don't know what this says about the red variety, because the leaves on it are single.)

The above information was obtained through the following book:

I would add that the frittilary butterfly uses the Passion Fruit Vine for every stage of its life cycle, which to me indicates the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Amazing Recipe for Salsa From Alabama Cooperative Extension System

I posted about comparing home-canned salsa recipes here and here. 

Surprisingly, I discovered that my favorite flavor of salsa was not the most beautiful. Several blog readers asked for a recipe. Here it is. (And thank you for reading my blog.)

Just to recap my opinions about this recipe, I found that of the three I made it had the best flavor. It is very loose and juicy, perhaps even runny. It is not thick. 

I followed the recipe as written, except that I doubled it after I made it the first time. This is the doubled recipe. 

Tomato Salsa (using slicing tomatoes) 
This recipe is from printed recipes I received from our local Alabama Cooperative Extension System when I requested them.

8 cups peeled, cored, chopped tomatoes
4 cups seeded, chopped green peppers
1 cup chopped jalapeno peppers (with seeds makes it hotter, without makes it milder)
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
8 to 9 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cups vinegar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablesppons oregano leaves
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
3 teaspoons salt

Combine all ingredients in a large non-reactive saucepan and bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle hot into hot pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in boiling water canner for 20 minutes. 

Yield: 8 pints. 

Enjoy. Try not to eat it all the first week. :) 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pear Relish Recipe

This recipe is from an old church cook book. It is not a new recipe. If this bothers or concerns you, please feel free to choose another recipe. I have made this recipe 2 years in a row. It is my mother-in-law's favorite thing and she is very good to us. It is the least I can do.

I like to eat it over beans, and peas. Served over rice, it reminds me of a Thai sweet and sour sauce that I have eaten at local Thai restaurants.


4 quarts pears--peeled, cored, chopped
2 1/2 green peppers (or 2 large) (Take out the seeds and white veins inside the peppers and rough chop.)
2 1/2 red peppers (Take out the seeds and white veins inside the peppers and rough chop.)
2 to 3 hot peppers (with seeds makes it hotter. without makes it milder)
2 1/2 large onions (rough chopped)
2 1/2 cups cider vinegar
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Grind pears through food processor.

Grind all peppers, and onions through the food processor.

You are looking for a very fine chop on all the vegetables.

Put all ingredients together into a non reactive pot and boil 20 minutes.

Fill pint jars. Leave 1/2 inch headspace.

Process in water bath canner 10 minutes.

Makes 5 pints. (Most of the time. One time, it made 7 for me. I don't know what I did differently.) 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Update to the Canned Salsa Taste Test

The original post on this topic can be found here.

My husband and I decided that the only way to definitively decide which was our favorite salsa was to do a side-by-side taste test for comparison. Individually, we liked each one.

I made the family quesadillas, using my normal recipe. We divided our quesadillas into four triangles and tried one salsa on each triangle, saving the last triangle for our favorite.

The results were surprising. Both of us were in unison about our choices. We liked number one the best. This is the one I had said was soupy, and not very eye-appealing. But, oh, the flavor! Wow! It is definitely the one I will use to make the last of my tomatoes into salsa.

Our second choice was number three. It is the spiciest, and the simplest to make. It was second best tasting.

In a side-by-side comparison, number two was our decidedly least favorite. I hasten to say that we like it when we don't have the others to compare with it, but with the others there, I almost don't like it at all.

As I said, the results surprised us.

Since number one recipe is something I obtained from our local county cooperative extension, I will post a recipe when I have time. (I know that I owe y'all a recipe for pear relish, too.)

Note: Those jars of salsa were not full when we started. They were the little bits left over after canning the others. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Taste Test Canned Salsa Recipes

Salsas: From Left to Right call them #1, #2, and #3
I started canning last year and thoroughly enjoy it, so I decided to buy 25 pounds of tomatoes and try three different recipes for salsa. 
I looked around online for recipes I liked, and used one I had in my recipe file. The salsa on the far left in the picture was from a recipe the local Mobile County Extension (Alabama). When I called them, they were very nice and sent out an entire package of recipes on every type of canning you could imagine.

The second recipe was's Zesty Salsa For Canning.

The third recipe was Byron's Salsa, found on this link.

The results were entirely unexpected. I liked every single one of them enough to make them again. They are, however, very different in taste, texture and amount of salsa made according to the recipe.

The Breakdown
Salsa #1 : The recipe had quite a few ingredients, including oregano, which was kind of exciting to me, since I have a good bit of oregano in the garden. It also included cumin, which is a flavor I love. This recipe called for white vinegar. Of the three recipes I tried, this was the only one to call for white vinegar. It had specific times to cook the mixture (20 minutes, after it comes to a boil). 

At the end of the recommended time, the salsa was really loose and runny. I was following directions as much as possible, so I took it out and ladled it into the canning jars. I canned it for the recommended 20 minutes, ending up with 6 full jars and one that was only partially filled. I was really disappointed with the way this salsa looked. I put the jar that I wasn't able to can into the refrigerator. When I tasted it after it cooled, I was amazed. The taste was really good, and right on the money for heat--along the lines of medium salsa you can buy from the store. 

Salsa #2 : This recipe has 65 reviews on and has 5 stars. It also had a pretty long ingredient list. The list included cider vinegar rather than the white vinegar required in the previous recipe. Interestingly, this recipe requires one to add a can of tomato paste right at the end to thicken it up. I lowered the amount of hot peppers to 5 large jalapenos. 

When I canned this recipe, I had enough for 8 jars of salsa, though the site said I would only end up with 6. I was happy with how much salsa I was able to get from this effort. It has a beautiful look--just what I expect when I open a can of salsa. The flavor was very good. I really liked it, too. 

Note: This recipe forgets to tell you to peel the tomatoes before canning. And I found a tip on another site that suggested cutting up your tomatoes one night, placing them into a colander over a bowl or pan, salting, and placing this entire thing into the fridge overnight. This way the tomatoes can drain into the pan and cooking times are greatly shortened. This also helps keep the salsa fresh tasting, as opposed to the taste of something that has been cooked to death. 

Salsa #3 : This recipe has a wonderful short ingredient list, just tomatoes, onion, jalapeno peppers, salt and cider vinegar. I added garlic and cilantro to the recipe, since I can't imagine salsa without cilantro. I used 4 large jalapenos, since I had 8 cups of tomatoes, and it is spicier than the other two recipes. It made the family's eyes water while it was cooking. This was my husband's choice for lunch today. The flavor is really nice, if slightly on the spicy side. It made 4 cans with a little left over. 

It cooked quickly and worked really well. The taste was amazing. 

So now what do I do? I like all of these recipes. I can see that I would make salsa #3 if I were in somewhat of a hurry or if I didn't want to use anything other than the most basic ingredients. I would make salsa #2 for a good all-around salsa. And salsa #1 would be great as a marinade or served over grits or rice. I was hoping to get one great recipe that stood out from all the rest. What I discovered was that there are many great recipes out there, and all of them taste better than those I have purchased from the store.

You can see my update, where my husband and I did a side-by-side comparison here. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mississippi Cream Peas

Mississippi Cream Peas before shelling

Mississippi Cream peas after shelling (with flash) 

Mississippi Cream peas after shelling (no flash) 

Cooked Mississippi cream peas with mashed potatoes and
a side salad of tomatoes and cucumbers

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Canning Pear Relish

This has never happened to me before. I ended up with almost 2
pint jars of relish left over. I didn't plan for that much, so I couldn't can it.
I had to refrigerate it, and now I will have to eat it up pretty quick. 

Boiling, Boiling
The five pints I was able to process in a water bath canner. 

A close up on the finished pear relish.
Pear relish is an unusual thing made with red peppers, green peppers, jalapenos, onions and pears in apple cider vinegar. (That's not the recipe. I am sure I left a few things out.)

It tastes pretty spicy and savory. There is not much sweet taste to it.

As far as I know, it is mainly eaten over "peas and butterbeans." I have also tried it on white rice and like it very much. On white rice, the taste resembles sweet and sour Thai sauce that I have had in a local Thai restaurant.

In the past, my recipe has always made 5 pint jars. Today, I could have canned 7 pint jars, but I only had 5 sterilized and only had 5 canning lids ready. Any canners out there have suggestions about this for me for next time? 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What Has Grown in My Life Since I Started Gardening--You Can Grow That

I have been thinking this month about all the things that have grown in my life since I started gardening two years ago.

    I knew I would buy less green beans, since I grow green beans. What I didn't know was that I would buy less hamburger meat.
      I knew I would buy less canned green beans. I didn't know I wouldn't buy any frozen vegetables. Or cook any of the frozen vegetables I already had on hand. Instead, I would be trying to eat up the vegetables that came from the garden.
      I didn't know that I would have to buy salad fixings in order to face yet another salad.
      I didn't know that I would end up eating way more than "5 a day" just to keep up with the garden.
      I didn't know I would coerce my family to eat vegetables "just so we can use it up. I have so many_____."
      I didn't know that people would give me their garden excess, thinking that if I garden, I would actually eat it.

    A bushel of pink eye purple hull peas brought to my door last week. 
      I didn't know that some of the things planted on a whim would give the most joy. 

    Mississippi Cream Peas make me smile every time I go to the
      I didn't know if my kids would actually eat more vegetables if we had a garden. But they do!
      I was surprised to find out that my husband will eat more vegetables, too, if they are here in the house straight from the garden. 

    • The whole family has gained better health because of the increased amount of vegetables. 

    • I have gained better health because of the vegetables and the exercise.

    • My children and I have learned a great deal about nature. It is a fascinating science experiment to watch corn grow and discuss the parts of the corn plant, watch bees almost make themselves sick buzzing all over the pollen on the corn, try to fight aphids and much more. 
    • Nature observation has also come in other forms. I am fond of watching hummingbirds flit in and out of my flowers, just in front of the house. 
    Hummingbird on my gladiolus

    You can find out about the 4 Words on the Fourth: You Can Grow That program by clicking on the link.

    So what has grown in your life since you began gardening? 
(Forgive the formatting. Blogger is giving me trouble.)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Passion Fruit Vines Both Red and Purple

Some of you may remember the story I posted back in April, when Dot Dot gave us Passion Fruit Vines.
Well, I had to pull all of my Scarlet Runner plants. Between the 15 inches of rain and the winds we received during Tropical Storm Debby, they were toast. They just looked terrible.

In a way, I was sad to see them go, because they attracted hummingbirds, but they really looked too sloppy for the front yard.

With the Scarlet Runners out, you can see the Passion Fruit Vines pretty clearly. I am pretty excited about it, because the two taller vines are red flowered Passion Fruit Vines. The center one that you can see in the second picture is purple. And all of them are really healthy looking. Dot Dot even told me that they look as if they will flower soon! Yay! (I'll take pictures of their beautiful flowers, if I get any.)

The vining plants to the back of the picture are Red Flowered
Passion Fruit Vines to the left and Purple Flowered Passion Fruit
Vines to the right. They have different types of leaves. The purple
ones have three pronged leaves. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Saving Seed From Cucumbers

Last week when we got so much rain,  I missed a cucumber in the garden. It turned yellow and swollen before I saw it. I had not planned on saving seeds from my cucumbers, but I only planted one variety, and the cucumber was at the stage needed to save seed. I decided to go ahead and save seeds from it. I thought you might like to see how to save seed from cucumbers.

Cucumbers are pollinated by bees, so you can only save pure seed if you only plant one variety. Otherwise, the likelihood of crossing is high.

This is what a cucumber looks like when ready to save seed.

Cut the cucumber in half and scoop the seeds from the 2 halves. 

Put the pulp in a bowl.

Add water, and pull off as much of the pulpy stuff as possible with your fingers. Leave
the water in the bowl, and the seeds in the bowl.
You will probably want to do this next part in the garage; it
stinks. Leave this water and seed and pulp mixture in the bowl
for 3 days, stirring once a day to separate the seeds from the pulp.

After three days, add a lot of water to this mixture and carefully pour off the lighter stuff. The good seeds sink to the bottom. Repeat this process several times with a full bowl of water each time, until your water runs clear.

Carefully pour off the last of the water.

The cleaned seeds will look like this.
Dry your seeds on a brown paper bag, or a piece of cardboard for several days until thoroughly dry. Place in a paper envelope and label.

I think it is kind of exciting to learn to save seeds from different plants. I have really enjoyed these cucumbers this year, and now I can really enjoy them next year, too. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mississippi Cream Peas

I love the beautiful double flowers on these peas. They open
downward. Before the buds open, they are yellow. They open to
these double white flowers. 

The first of the Mississippi Cream peas. I cannot wait to eat them. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Garden Profile --Garden of a 12 Year Old Boy

I have a friend who homeschools. She has a 12 year old boy who has befriended an elderly man they call "Mr. Ben." Mr. Ben has a huge garden and his garden got this 12 year old interested in gardening.

It is the 12 year old's garden. It isn't the garden of the mother. It isn't the garden of the father. It is his. He decides what to put in the garden. He borrows the rototiller from Mr. Ben. He plants okra, cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelons, and tomatoes.

I asked him what his favorite plant is. He said, "Okra, by far, okra."

Very cool.

And kudos to the parents for allowing him space to follow his interests. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Story about Field Peas

After reading several posts by Kris at Georgia Home Garden about field peas, I decided to hunt some field peas down to fill the beds when I remove the corn. I have gotten interested in heirloom seeds, so I spent a good bit of time looking through different sites, trying to find an unusual variety to (possibly) preserve. The plan was to plant some unusual variety of cowpea (field peas, crowder peas, cream peas, Southern cowpeas--as far as I can tell these names represent the same type of plants.) I would grow it, and if my family and I liked it, I would save it, and possibly offer it on Seed Savers Exchange.

I spent several hours on different websites looking for something that sounded "just right." I asked Kris his opinion, and considered that as well. All in all, I spent too much time on the idea of field peas. Then (Yes, I agree, it was too late. I should have asked my husband first.) Then I asked Greg. He said, "I love Pink Eye Purple Hull peas." Well. I should have just asked him. Then I wouldn't have spent so much time trying to find some other variety.

So I placed an order with St. Clare Seeds for Pink Eye Purple Hulls. After I received my packet of seeds, I decided that I really would need more seeds than that, so I placed another order for more of the same seeds. The second time, St. Clare Seeds sent me a free packet of Mississippi Cream Cowpeas.

I had a few bare spots in the Twenty Foot Garden. On a whim, I planted the Mississippi Cream peas in those spots. I planted approximately 40 seeds. I gave the rest to my children. They "planted" them around the yard.

I was surprised and pleased at how quickly they grew. I had almost 100% germination.

Now to the really interesting part of this story. I had never heard of these beans. I planted them on a whim.

My mother-in-law came by and wanted to see the garden. I showed her what I had, explaining what everything was. I mentioned the name "Mississippi Cream peas," and she squealed. I have never heard her make that sound. I looked at her sideways. What did that sound mean?

She explained, "My Granny Johnson loved Cream Peas. They didn't sell them in Mobile. Every year she would make us (meaning my father-in-law and her) go back to Andalusia to get a bushel of Cream Peas."

It really moved her that I was growing these beans that reminded her of her Granny Johnson.

Now I feel that the Lord gave me a gift. Free beans, yes, but more than that. A story of my kids' heritage. A story I would never have heard if I had not planted these beans.

A side note about this: those beans were rare in the Mobile, Alabama in the 1990's when her grandmother died, according to my mother-in-law. She has personally not eaten them at all or seen them offered for sale since her Granny Johnson died. Even way back then, the beans were rare. I did a search of these beans on the Seed Savers Exchange 2012 Yearbook. They are not listed at all. Not one member of the Seed Savers Exchange has Mississippi Cream Peas on offer. I will list mine if I get enough.

Please, if you have seed that can be saved, consider saving it. It's not very hard, and the variety may not be available if you don't help. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

On My Mind-- Scarlet Runners

I harvested a dinner plate full of Scarlet Runner beans. They were big--as long as my children's heads. They felt like the beans were mature inside. When I peeled them (which was no easy feat, by the way), the beans were still teeny. I ended up with about 2 tablespoons of beans. They tasted okay when I cooked them, but that is really a lot of trouble for not much.

Later, I harvested some of the smaller beans and tried them as green beans. They feel sticky on the tongue, even after cooking. It was quite uncomfortable for me.

They have been coming in almost daily, but I can't bear to eat them. I don't like them shelled and I don't like them cooked like green beans. Now I am dithering about what to do with these plants. I like the beauty of the flowers. I like that hummingbirds and bumblebees stop by and drink nectar from them. But the taste appalls me.

I pulled all the Scarlet Runner Beans from my Twenty Foot Garden. I decided that they weren't worth the space back there. I just don't know what to do with the ones in the front yard garden. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Flowers and Passion Fruit

We have had about 2 inches of rain since I reported the inch of rain on Monday. Praise the Lord!

Everything is perking right up after that wonderful rain.

My kids have seen the hummingbirds more than I have. They have seen them 4 or 5 times. I was worried about pollination on the Scarlet Runners, because I haven't seen many bees, either, yet this year. In several places, the places where there were flowers now look like this. Just a nub.

But today I found this.

Do you see those 2 little baby beans right in the center of the picture? I have several more that look like that. So I am hopeful that we will get to eat some scarlet runner beans. (We plan to use them as shelly beans, because I had heard they taste similar to butterbeans and my crew likes those pretty well.)

In the Twenty Foot Garden, I have been watching my green beans. Today I saw the first flowers. Yea. We may be eating fresh organic green beans soon.

Then, just after I lay my youngest down for her afternoon nap, I got a call. "Do you think I could stop by?" Dot Dot wanted to know. "Sure. Come on," I said. 

She came and brought me red passion fruit vines! Woot! Woot!
Now to just get these planted. 

And here are the purple ones she gave me a couple weeks ago.
They still look weak, but they still seem to be hanging in there.
The rain does seem to have perked them up some. 
It is great to have friends willing to share pass-along plants with you. :)