Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dried Bean Trials

Five years has passed. I've tried eleven different kinds of dried beans trying to come up with ones that complete the cycle to the rattle in the pod stage. I'm finally having a little bit of success. Our soil is better than our former location but now we have cooler temperatures and a sun that goes down early because we are by the mountain. That means less daylight hours and more hours of cooler temperatures. A bean may say 90 days to the dried stage but it is  more than 90 days under our conditions.
One sure fire winner this year was the Kennearly bean. It matured and the pods turned yellow faster by far than the other seven types of beans I had growing. I learned that if I want dried beans I need to space my plants further apart. If I want green beans closer together works best. It was something that just naturally happened in different parts of the rows and the performance difference was quite profound. Where they came up thick, the pods stayed green. Spaced further apart, they turned yellow and matured faster.
My husband says I am possessed with beans. Yes, I have spend a great deal of hours on this project and I've learned that I love shelling beans. It is so relaxing for me. Just a repetitive motion that allows my mind to wonder unfettered. With the hectic schedule I find I am naturally drawn to them.  Kirk also told me that I would have a great deal to talk about with my diceased grandfather who developed a type of yellow wax bean. I can't wait to compare notes with what I've learned and what he learned. That same bean, Kinghorn Wax, will undergo trials in my new location next year. It did wonderful where we lived before. It just put on more and more beans as the summer went on. This bean that was a staple for Del Monte in my grandfather's time, now has to be ordered out of  Canada. This tells you how fast our seed diversification is dwindling.
 I have research and researched dried beans on the internet the past few weeks. Yet with all the hours spent looking things up, I'm still observing things amongst the seven different kinds of beans in my garden that I've not read anywhere.
It is frustrating but the university sites don't give enough detail. If it is not a very large commercial crop they don't study it. When they do study things it is only for a year or so and hence, a whole lot gets left out because the weather is not the same from year to year so those changes are not reflected in the study. Last year we had frost on the 23rd of August. This year it has yet to freeze. As for blogs people seem to grow them where they are easy to grow so nothing is said about really tough regions like ours. My frustration has been huge. I'm determined though because dried beans were a pioneer staple.
One thing I learned from my research is that beans have a load capacity. They stop adding beans when the limit is reached. That is why they tell you to keep your green beans picked. Picking allows room for other beans to grow on the plant. I'm going to pay attention to this of different kinds of beans.
This is Ireland Creek beans. Not only are the pods really long with on average six beans per pod but the load capacity is impressive. They have earned a spot in our garden next year. I only planted one seed packet full.
The other thing I noticed is that the Kenearly beans had most of their pods turning about the same time on a given plant. The Ireland Creek beans came in second in this area. Some other types of beans had everything from really green beans to dried and leathery looking at the same time. With our short, short season this is a huge plus to mature all at once and early.
This has to do with genetics I suspect. I quit raising Kentucky Wonder because the green beans came on in a small picking and then two large pickings and then were done. A great thing for the commercial field but not so good for a home gardener who wants the harvest spread out over a long period of time.
My Contender beans have a very long growing season and since I start harvesting the end of July I had weeks of picking before frost. When the beans slowed way down, became small, and curled badly I quit picking. I should have kept picking as the plants blossomed again and when I pulled them today to feed to stock they had lots of over mature beans and quite a few blossoms. I would have gotten quite a few more green beans to can in a later harvest time - live and learn.
The lovely Scarlet beans from my sister, you remember the pretty orangish red blossoms I showed you, barely gave me any beans. This is the sum total of beans that dried on the plants. There were tons of blossoms and hardly any bean pods. I ripped them out in disgust and canned 8 pints of shelled beans. That was one of my goals this year was to do shelly beans. I had never heard of canning at this stage until this year. I thought it might come in handy on one of those early frost years. It was a guess as you go experience since I could not find detailed information on how to do shelly beans until I read a garden forum where people chit chat back and forth. You know a university did not do a study on it as they aren't canning a field of half grown beans. 
 I was smart with these Ireland Creek beans. I used only one package unlike all the space and seed I used on the Scarlet Runners. What a waste. The Ireland Creek beans did alright. I just have to get used to the strange limy yellow coloring. Dried bean varieties that do alright here are rare indeed and they have a chance to acclimate and do better with selection.
They earned a right to a second year of trials. We shall see what the weather does to them next year.
I also learned in my studies that dried beans at the store can be up to six years old. Older beans take longer to cook and are less shiny but just how old the package does not disclose. Even if you store your dried beans in #10 tin cans, with oxygen removing packet thingies, they will not retain vitamins. Proteins and carbohydrates yes but after 2 to 3 years the nutrients are pretty much lost. Who knows if the store beans have any vitamins by the time they reach you. This is another push for self-sufficiency as a steady supply is worth far more than a vitamin deprived stock pile. The stock pile might keep you alive but barely. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

White Beets, Yum!

I know, I know silence is not golden but I have really been busy, putting away food for the winter and taking care of kids. The four year old told Papa tonight, "It's like we were your kids." That is pretty much it when Mamma has to take on two jobs to make ends meet. In my quest to lower our expenses, I have used a 24 pack of 12 lids per box, small mouth canning lids. Not sure how many of the large mouth lids but a bunch. I figure I will have filled over 400 jars by the time I'm done canning in November. I do pumpkins, can a few dried beans, and meat that month.

Besides canning I'm drying and freezing also. Yet when I count up the amount of food sitting in the freezer and jars it is not enough. Think about it, 52 weeks in a year, which is 365 days, three meals a day. That is a LOT of food. How did the pioneers ever do it? A girl can, can only so much. This is where the future green house will come in and we are making plans to build a cellar. The green house probably won't be built next year but I would like the cellar at least part way done. That should lower some of the canning labor. The longer I can store food in its whole state the less I have to can, freeze, or dry later because much of it will have already been eaten up. Also this spreads out the labor over a longer period of time. Canning is so much more pleasant when it is cold outside and the heat generated is a welcome warmth.

The picture up above may have you puzzled. They are both beets. Yes, there is a white beet. I was motivated to give it a try when the seed catalogue said that lots of people who do not like red beets like the white ones. They are milder and sweeter. They are right. All our red beet hating grand kids really do like the white ones. They just look pale and sickly in the jar all by themselves so I mixed the two, the red and the white. It is really quite pretty. None of the beets have done well the last few years in the garden though so it is time for some research and changing of the soil in their future bed. Beets aren't just for Kirk and I anymore.

I have learned a great deal this year from the garden. Some successes and some, "What was I thinking?" moments. The white beet experiment was definitely a repeater. Now to figure out what I need to do with the soil because beets just are not in love with ours, 24 pints and a couple meals eaten fresh is all we got.

When that is figured out I just might try making sugar out of the white beets. They say you can make a syrup. No, this are not sugar beets.