Wednesday, June 23, 2010

From my garden

I just finished picking green beans from my garden. My preference is the Tenderette variety. It's an old-fashioned one that seems to have gone out of fashion in recent years. Most of the gardeners in my family prefer half-runners or Kentucky wonders or pole beans. All I can say to that is strings, strings, and more strings. Tenderettes are a stringless bush variety, and they are truly stringless and truly tender, even when they are a little overgrown. It happens. You pick and then you go back in a couple of days to pick some more and realize by the 8-inch-long bean that you missed that one, and that one over there. Why can't beans be a different color than the leaves and stems? They're so hard to see.

Picking beans is a back-breaking job, but it's worth it when you put that first forkful of tender, tasty beanness in your mouth. The tenderettes cook quickly, too, so you don't have to wait long to take a bite. They're also very easy to clean. Just snap off the stem end and break to your desired length, or not at all, if that's the way you like to serve them.

Here's a hint for picking:  don't just pull the bean off willy-nilly. It's best to use two hands, using one to hold the stem and the other to break off the bean right above the stem end or cap. If you leave part of the bean behind, it will keep on growing and the nutrients from the soil will be diverted from the whole unfinished beans. The main stems are also very brittle and break easily. It makes me so mad when I break part of one with new little beans just starting to grow.

This year I'm keeping a daily tally of how much produce I've harvested and will add it all up at the end of the growing season. I was inspired by an article in Mother Earth News about growing $700 worth of food in a 100-square-foot space. I had never kept a log of our produce, and we're hoping for a larger yield this year because of the added raised beds and improved soil. I have everything down and will report at summer's end. So far, I've harvested 3 1/4 pounds green beans (among other things) in two pickings. In my part of the country, we call one picking a "mess". As in, I picked me a mess of green beans today. That there is country talkin', my friends.

To the right of the green beans in the picture is sage. If you have never grown sage, then stick some in the ground, because it is virtually foolproof. It will grow in the poorest soil, but, of course, it will grow better in amended soil. I grow it because there is nothing like homegrown, dried sage in your Thanksgiving dressing (stuffing for you cityfolk). I also grow it because my mom always had a big patch of it in her garden. She passed away in 1987 and I still have the last jar she gave me. I couldn't bear to use it all.

Now, I will make an offer that you can't resist. If anyone who isn't growing their own sage would like enough to season your holiday stuffing this year, just let me know in comments, and I will send you some after it's dried.

This picture is one "mess" of Swiss chard that I've grown this year. It has been bountiful in a space about 4 ft. by 4-ft.  I've harvested approximately 4 pounds and there is probably another pound to pick, but it's getting pretty buggy and the heat is starting to affect the taste.

We love chard. It is so easy to prepare. First, you must wash it thoroughly, changing the water a couple of times. (And don't waste that water...use it water your outdoor plants!)  Then all you need to do is rough-chop it horizontally, stems and all, and throw it in a large pan with a little water, minced garlic (optional), olive oil and salt and cover and steam until tender. Its taste is earthy, like a cross between kale and spinach. And like those two vegetables, it cooks waaaaay down. You start out with what you think is a vast amount, and it ends up with two people fighting over the little dish full. So always cook a lot more than you think you can use. I was excited about my crop this year, because it included yellow-stems among the red ones. It doesn't take much to get me excited about good food.

And finally, something I will be adding on a regular basis.


Too small for a post...too good to pass up.

I want to tell you how much I love my new office chair, but first I have to tell you about the old, nay, ancient one that was a castoff from friends departing for southern climes. It was old when we gladly received it five years ago. It finally fell completely apart a couple of weeks ago, literally, while I was sitting in it. Then I have to tell you that the first chair I brought home gave me no love whatsoever. I chose a fabric one, because I didn't want more leather for the cats to de-leatherize, and the helpful salesboy swore that he had the very same one at home and loved, loved, loved it. And I was trying to cheap out with a 20% discount on the one that someone had returned just a few days earlier. It was already assembled and Husband was out of town.

I soon found out why said person had returned it. The seat felt as if it were tilted slightly forward, just enough to make me feel like I was falling out of it, the arms were not adjustable (which I need for the carpal tunnel) and the fabric felt as if it were burning acid into my bare legs when I was wearing shorts, which is my uniform in the summer. The store has a 30-day, no-questions-asked return policy, so after a week of being uncomfortable and with the ad that came out in Sunday's paper proclaiming that the chair I should have bought was now on sale for $70 less in my hand, I dragged the thing back to the store. (I'm sure there were some syntax rules broken in that sentence.)

After receiving my refund slip, I headed to the back of the store straight to my new chair, sat in it, and fell in love all over again. How do I love it? Let me count the ways:

1. The seat height adjusts really high. (I have my computer in a former entertainment center, so looking up at the monitor with my bifocally lenses was giving me headaches and a crick in my neck.

2. The seat back adjusts for lumbar support, angle and height. Awesome.

3. It's nice and big for my big butt that's getting bigger, because of sitting in front of the computer for hours writing posts. But at least now I'm comfortably fat.

4. As you can see in the picture, the feet have nice little texturized rubber things on which I can rest my bare feet without them sliding off every second.

5. The arms adjust up and down and back and forth.

6. And, last but not least, memory foam...need I say more?

Enough about the chair. I'll leave you with a really sweet picture of Sassy and Frankie showing each other some sleepy love.

If you want to see Frankie's identical twin, go to Natalie's Chicken Blog in the backlink below (or just click on the name here).


The Bumbles said...

Awww - look at those two? He's such a good sport to appease her isn't he?

I'll raise my Bumble paw for some sage. I'll bring it to my Mom and let her season her own stuffing though - best if I stay out of the kitchen entirely.

I spent many a summer day snapping beans and peas at my grandmother's - and yes - we referred to them as a mess too. I'm not a huge fan of the taste of them, but I loved the smell and sensation of the *snap* - plus it always came with stories from my relatives, sitting around helping grandma get things ready for supper.

Char said...

sage is definitely easy to grow - i had pineapple sage last year in an herb garden and it's the only thing that did well.

those beans look delish and yes, around here we say "mess" too.

Anonymous said...

Gotta love Sassy and Frankie. So sweet. I'm hoping I don't have to cook a thing for Thanksgiving, If I bring a month old baby to dinner I get a pass right? :)

Sandy Nawrot said...

My mom has an incredible garden in IN, but she doesn't grow sage, so I would love to have some! I think you live in a twin location of where I grew up though. I'm loving your chair, and let's face, picking one is a very important decision. It is just as important as a mattress or a stove!

Love the kitty picture. That Sassy is growing up to be the most beautiful girl!

Wanda said...

Sage, Basil, Rosemary, parsley, garlic and chives are the herbs I grow in my garden. Freshness makes the difference! Nice of you to offer it to others!

Your chair certainly looks comfy!
Being petite, things, like a good fit are important to me! I just bought one 2 months ago that's smaller in size than most.

Your loving cats are adorable, Susan!

VioletSky said...

I'm keeping a produce log, too. I have 5 tomatoes!!!!! I am so excited.

That's it. That's my log.

If you have sage left over... I'd love some fresh dried sage from a friends' garden.

VioletSky said...

Oh, and I always thought 'dressing' was made outside the bird and 'stuffing' was crammed inside the bird to bake. I've never thought of it as a city/country thing?

Susan said...

Molly, not only does he appease her, he grooms her sometimes, as does Tobey. I think I've mentioned before that I think of Tobey and Frankie as the gay couple who adopted. ;-)

I'll bet if your grandma was anything like mine, or my mother, she also cooked those beans till they were falling apart with some good bacon fat in there and maybe some new potatoes cooked on top. I try to cook them a little healthier these days, but that's still my favorite way to eat them.

I'll put you down on the list with your little Bumble pawprint on the page!

Susan said...

Hey, Char! Too bad you don't live closer to me...I'd invite you over for a mess of my beans, cooked country-style!

I've never grown pineapple sage before. Does it really taste/smell like the fruit?

Susan said...

Stacy, I would venture to say if you're holding a sweet little month-old baby that you won't have to lift a single finger!

Susan said...

Sandy, I bet your mom is a fantastic gardener! They know how to do it right in The Middle.

I will put your name next on the list. I may have to go out and buy another plant or two! :)

Sassy is a beauty! And her sassiness is taming down a little.

Susan said...

Wanda, I have all those, too! As well as thyme and cilantro, and I did have lemon balm until I pulled it all out. I saw a few twigs sprouting up the other day though.

I'm glad you found the right-sized chair. We're like the three bears!

Susan said...

Sanna, my friend, there will always be enough sage for you to have. And you have tomatoes! All right!

Down home they just call it all dressing, whether it's in or out of the bird. But I think you're right about the terms.

Cora said...

Yep...I picked me a mess of squash, cucumbers, tomatoes...etc. this week. My peas are not ready just yet. I love your garden talk and I love my bountiful garden too! So rewarding to grow your own. And I love dressing not stuffing!
I also love that you love your kittys so much. My daughter has such a weak spot for them. She has rescued 6 since she moved to New Orleans, Louisiana...adopted 2, found one that needed his flea collar cut off that was choking him, saved a neglected kitten from a divorced couple, the next one crawled out of her car engine just before she started the car....and last the little calico who followed her home and would not leave...she named her Nola after New Orleans LA. I told her she must have catnip in her pockets! haha.

Have a great week....and let us know whats growing!

Natalie said...

Because you advise it, I will plant sage.
And your kitty... have we talked about your kitty before? Because she is exactly like our dear(ly departed) Nena.
I love your gardening tips.

Susan said...

Hi,Cora! Even though southern Ohio is far removed from the Deep South, it sounds like we have a lot of the same customs and way of speaking.

Your garden sounds fabulous! Are you talking English peas or a southern variety, because it's already too hot here for the English ones. Mine have pretty much shriveled up with this heat wave we've been having. They didn't do well this year or last. Not sure what I'm doing wrong.

Yes, I'm a sucker for homeless cats...I think I was born with catnip in my pocket! I love the name your daughter chose for her latest...very pretty.

I'm coming over for a's been too long.

Susan said...

Hi, Natalie! I think we did talk about the kitties before and I see this morning that you've posted something about Nena, so I'm coming over to have a look.

You won't regret planting sage. You should start a whole herb garden! Especially garlic...why, you live in the state that has the garlic capital of the world...Gilroy! And they're having their festival July 23-25. I hear you can smell it from miles away!

Judy said...

I love seeing the cat picture most of all! Sooooo cute!
PS: The chair looks lovely too, surprized the cats aren't sleeping there.

dutchbaby said...

Love the white hat, especially right next to the beautiful garlic header.

I planted beans once; I'm afraid I'm not a born farmer. They grew alright, but I kept forgetting to go out there to pick them. When I finally got in the swing of picking them, we went on a three-week vacation and they all went to seed. I think I planted blue lakes; they seem to have more flavor than the Kentucky Wonders. I love your country lingo. I don't suppose I can say that I picked up a mess of haricots verts at Costco yesterday.

I have a delicious recipe for swiss chard baked with swiss cheese in phyllo dough, if you like. It was one of my favorite ways to sneak vegies into the kids' diet.

I'm developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Disturbing.

Ruth said...

Before I forget (which I did yesterday), let me say the header is MAH VELOUS. I love it.

I went over all your points about tenderettes with Don this morning. Now we know. If we have strings this year in his multiple varieties of beans (don't ask me what they are), it will not be your fault. Unless I decide to blame you for not telling him before now. ;-) He is growing the long Chinese kind! I can't wait to see those, and decide how to fit them on the plate. I hear they are all the rage in fancy cuisine, so I plan on braiding up a mess of 'em and cookin' 'em.

I have a Swiss Chard recipe for you. Don't let me forget. It's in my Silver Spoon cookbook, at home.

I would ask to be entered for the sage, but we already have some hung and dried, thank you very much.

The chair is tres parfait, and now you can spend many many more hours on the computer in comfort. :D Teehee. You gotta have a good chair.

Fantastic post, Susie, and worth the wait (this and the last). :)

Oliag said...

Hi Susan!

Oh I would love me a nice mess of beans right now to cook up with some bacon....only way to cook them in my opinion!...Will have to buy some at the farmer's market tho...and swiss of my favorite it sauted with onions and garlic and raisins and Italian sausage...on pasta...yum.

Thank you for the offer of homegrown sage...I had a 15 year old sage plant that recently died and I just replanted a couple of different kinds...if they don't survive...I'll let you know:)

Now as for your chair...Memory foam! Genius:) Someday I will have to post a picture of my ancient office chair...the foam stuffing is now falling out and I am determined to find someone who will restore it:)



Susan said...

Hi Judy! Cats are so photogenic, aren't they? Especially Sassy...I think she really likes having her picture taken.

I'm kind of surprised they haven't claimed the chair myself!

Susan said...

Thank you, dutchbaby!

Oh dear, you're a neglectful veggie gardener! Of course, with such fabulous farmers' markets that you must have out there, it's hardly worth going to all the trouble unless you just like getting your hands dirty and sweating buckets in the hot sun.

Tenderette green beans make wonderful haricots vert if I pick them a little immature. They nearly melt in your mouth even when they're crisp-tender.

Your recipe sounds very interesting; please share?

I developed CTS when I was planning my chicken scheme and hanging out on all the time. It was very addictive and the only way I broke it was to form an addiction to something else...blogging! haha

Susan said...

Why, thank you, Miss Ruthie!

I can't wait to see pictures of the Chinese beans and your artful presentation of them. I'm sorry I didn't post this earlier in the might have saved you and Don from a life of strings between your teeth. hehe

I'll be looking forward to the chard recipe, although I may have to wait until next year to use it. It looks mine is winding down unless I find a remedy for the bugs that are eating it. Of course, a few bug holes don't bother me (ala Joni Mitchell), but it's not very pretty.

Yep, ya gotta have a good chair.

Susan said...

Hiya, Oliag!

Yum, that chard recipe sounds fantastic! I bet it looks pretty on the pasta, too.

I'll have to cook at least one mess of beans the old-fashioned country way with bacon drippings (or as we say it, bacon grease) and new potatoes cooked on top. That's the way my husband and daughter like them. After all that cooking, they don't really taste like fresh green beans anymore, but they do taste like home.

Cindy said...

That thar's a beeeauuuutiful mess of beans and chard ya got! Sage? I'd love some. Thank you!

Nice chair! Let me know how your back feels with that new device. My chiropractor tells me my neck and shoulders are beyond a new chair. He says exercise, changing positions every 20 minutes, and good posture are essential though. Oh, and seeing him every week too. I just returned from another visit of his torture.

I wanna curl up with your sweet kitties today.

Susan said...

Why, thank ye, Miss Cindy! Pull up a seat to the table and stick yer fork in!

Ah, yes...the favorite sentence of every chiropractor I've ever known, "See you next week." They do provide wonderful relief for certain problems, though. I've certainly utilized their skills over the years. Are you seeing any improvement?

That's my big comfy chair those kitties have absconded. They looked so sweet I didn't have the heart to move them. It's very good for napping for kitties and humans.

Wrensong Farm said...

I'm writing down the name of the beans so I am sure to get some growing next year. I'm a definite bean fan and those sound perfect!!

I would love some of your sage if there is any left, this year was not the year of the garden for's a priority next year.

The chair looks fantastic! I think I'm glad I don't have one's hard enough to get me to leave the computer on the weekends! :P