Monday, October 27, 2014

Harvest Monday - October 27, 2014

The "summer" bounty is dwindling quickly. I harvested some peppers last week but no tomatoes and it's been ages since I harvested eggplant. Only three photos of peppers this week.

Odessa Market, Lady Bell, Stocky Red Roaster, and Piment doux long des Landes

I nearly cleaned out all of the Tarahumara Chile Colorado peppers. Some of them have been smoked and dried (a process that I blogged about this weekend), and the rest are going into the dehydrator today.

Tarahumara Chile Colorado and Topepo Rosso

Padron peppers and Green Fingers cucumbers

The cucumbers are incredibly prolific still. I made a big batch of blue cheese dip last week with the notion that cucumber batons would be the perfect vehicle for transporting it to the mouth - yum. But there's just so much cucumbers and dip a couple of people can eat in a week. The refrigerator overfloweth with cukes...

This is nearly the final harvest of Australian Butter and Emerite filet beans, I stripped just about every bean off of the vines.

The Di Ciccio broccoli keeps putting out shoots, I harvested two bunches like this.

Also harvested but not photographed were a couple more Tromba d'Albenga squash, one of which went into a tomato coconut curry with beans, sweet peppers, and Sablefish. Another Tromba squash went into a couple more Scarpaccia (Savory Zucchini Tart). I also harvested the last of the radishes other than the Watermelon radishes which are still sizing up. The radishes were also good vehicles for transporting blue cheese dip. And I finally weighed the dry Petaluma Gold Rush beans.

Here's the harvests for the past week:

Australian Butter beans - 1 lb., .7 oz.
Emerite Filet beans = 2.4 oz.
Petaluma Gold Rush dry beans - 7 lb., .4 oz.
Di Ciccio broccoli - 2 lb., 1.7 oz.
Green Fingers Persian cucumbers - 6 lb., 7.3 oz.
Lady Bell peppers - 1 lb., 6.2 oz.
Odessa Market peppers - 14.7 oz.
Padron peppers - 11 oz.
Piment doux long des Landes peppers - 7.9 oz.
Stocky Red Roaster peppers - 3.7 oz.
Tarahumara Chile Colorado peppers - 2 lb., 8.4 oz.
Topepo Rosso peppers - 7.1 oz.
Helios Radishes - 3 oz.
Pink Beauty radishes - 4.9 oz.
Pink Punch radishes - 8.1 oz.
Tromba D'Albenga zucchini - 1 lb., 8.1 oz.

The total harvests for the past week were - 25 lb., 15.6 oz.
Which brings the total harvests for 2014 up to - 1097 lb., 15.1 oz.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphne on her blog Daphne's Dandelions, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Smokin' Peppers

There's a smoky sweet aroma hanging in the air around here lately. I've been experimenting with smoking peppers. Here's a look at the latest batch getting started. There's NTR's (Not Topepo Rosso) in the front left, Tarahumara Chile Colorado in the back half, and various half peppers left after I did a bit of comparison tasting. I've only ever smoked whole peppers before and I was curious to see how half peppers would come out.

I'm using my new Big Green Egg (thank you Dave) to hot smoke the peppers. The BGE has a nice feature (optional unfortunately) that allows for indirect cooking. It's a bit difficult to make out in the photo, but the grill rack is sitting above a thick ceramic insert that deflects the direct heat of the hot coals burning below and yet allows for air circulation around the grill. Set a packet of wood chips and/or a piece or two of hard wood kindling on top of the hot coals and the grill becomes a smoker. It's not easy to replenish the supply of wood chips that supply the smoke so I tried a method that produces smoke for a longer period of time. Place a couple of handfuls of dry chips in a large square of heavy duty aluminum foil. Yes, dry chips, another advantage of this method is that the chips need not be soaked first.

Seal the chips securely into a packet.

Then poke about 6 small, very small holes, into the packet. The nearly airless environment inside the packet keeps the chips from burning up and producing a quick hit of smoke. The chips burn very slowly and produce a small steady supply of smoke for about an hour. I found that kindling size pieces of almond wood, about 1/2 to 1-inch thick and 10 to 12-inches long also burn slowly and produce smoke for about an hour. I've been using both of those in my experiments, one packet of chips and a couple pieces of kindling.

When the chips have finished producing smoke they've turned into charcoal.

It took a bit of fiddling around but I eventually figured out where to set the lower vent and

 the upper vent

to maintain a temperature of about 250ºF (or as you can see in the built in temperature gauge, about 125ºC).

That seems to be the temperature necessary (at least in the BGE) to produce smoke, below that you're just slow cooking the peppers.

Here's a look at the peppers after about a half hour of slow cooking (not intentional, part of the learning process).

Here they are after an hour of smoking. At this point I had removed the rack and the ceramic plate, added another packet of apple wood chips and another piece of almond wood kindling, replaced the plate and rack, then I flipped all the whole peppers. The plate beneath gets pretty hot, about 350ºF, so the peppers need to be flipped to prevent them from scorching on one side (another lesson learned). I'm not sure why but the pepper halves didn't need to be flipped, perhaps because they were all fairly thick fleshed. These smoked for another hour but I couldn't get a photograph of them when they were done because it was too dark outside by then.

The peppers are still soft after a couple hours of smoking so I finish them in my dehydrator. That's when the house starts to fill with the aroma of sweet smoke, it's difficult to avoid. I put my dehydrator in a room with a vent fan and that kept the smoky aroma to a minimum, actually, it was rather pleasant.

Smoked and dried Tarahumara Chile Colorado

You can see in the photo above how the Tarahumara Chile Colorados were very slightly scorched, it's not as bad as it looks, the peppers darken when they dry completely. The Tarahumara peppers are thinner fleshed than the NTR peppers which did not scorch. On the other hand, the NTR peppers took a long time to dry and I eventually cut some of them in half so they would finish drying much more quickly. The half peppers seemed to smoke just fine and they certainly dried in a timely manner.

Tarahumara Chile Colorado

For comparison, the photo above shows dried smoked peppers at the top (brown stems), plain dehydrated peppers on the bottom, and fresh peppers in the center.

I haven't actually tasted any of the smoked peppers yet, but I'm almost out of my latest batch of Merkén and I'm planning on using some the smoked NTR peppers in the next batch.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Winter Garden

This Thursday, October 23, I've been invited to participate in the KKUP Old Time Farm & Garden Radio Show. Jim Maley, the shows host, is a volunteer with the Santa Clara County Master Gardener program and my chile pepper mentor. I volunteered with the Master Gardeners from 2001 until I moved to Monterey county in early 2007. One of the very first projects I helped with was a trial of various types of peppers. Jim, aka Dr. Pepper, was the leader of that project. I'm not sure how it happened, but some of my old MG cohorts, including Jim, somehow stumbled upon my blog and have been reading along. So it was such a pleasant surprise when not long ago Jim asked me to join him to chat about my garden and my blog for the first hour of the show to be followed by another hour talking chile peppers with a group of Master Gardeners. It sounded like too much fun to pass up. KKUP can be found at 91.5 on the FM dial and can be heard in the South Bay and most of the Monterey Bay area (unfortunately not where I live). The live broadcast starts at 10:00 a.m., sorry no streaming, but a recording will be available later.

One of the topics that Jim suggested we talk about is my winter garden so I thought I would write up a post to help jog my memory and to compliment the show. I really don't consider winter gardening to be one of my strengths, but here goes...

Oh, and I must add that the winter garden is not very photogenic, so don't expect any pretty pictures. The garden tends to look rather bleak in December after the first frost and before I get things cleaned out.

December 13, 2013

The days are decidedly shorter now, but because of the peculiar nature of ocean currents and prevailing winds in this part of the world October tends to be one of the warmest months of the year. It makes it difficult to think about the winter garden. But now it's actually too late to be planning and planting most of the winter garden, even in mild Zone 9b (average lows of 25 to 30ºF or -3.9 to -1.1ºC) where I can harvest something every month of the year. When winter arrives, generally with a blast of cold air from Alaska some time in December, growth in the garden slows to a crawl if not an absolute dead stop. The frost hardy winter crops must be well established before that icy blast hits or they won't produce much of anything before bolting in early spring. Fortunately, my garden doesn't have to endure very many arctic blasts, a downright freeze strikes generally only a couple of times, more often the garden is subjected to radiation frost which isn't quite so damaging.

I made a summary of my monthly harvests back to 2010 which was when I first started to keep detailed records of what my garden produces. It shows that I still have a lot to learn about winter gardening. The leanest months of the year have tended to be December through March. It never fails to amaze me that a month of harvests in winter doesn't come up to a week's total or indeed a day's total at the height of the season in August through October. I really don't want a glut of veggies in winter since I have lots of preserved vegetables to eat, but a bit more fresh stuff would be nice, particularly if I could harvest a wider variety of veggies.

   In Pounds

Annual Totals
You can see more detail HERE on the Harvests page.

My greatest difficulty in planning for winter harvests has been making room in the summer and fall garden for the vegetables that will produce in the winter. It has taken me a long time to figure out some proper rotations, successions, and space planning (still a work in progress). There have been many times when I've had seedlings that need to be set out in the garden and I've just wedged them into whatever space is available. I'm becoming a bit more disciplined about that now. This year I made sure to have space in one bed for the winter brassicas which must be sown in summer and set out in the garden by early fall at the latest.

Last winter this bed was about 2/3 alliums - onions, garlic, and shallots took up one end and most of one side of the bed. The rest of the bed was seed poppies, chamomile, and wheat. I think I planted the garlic and shallots in November (my record keeping fell apart a bit last fall) and the onions were planted on December 20. Late plantings like these are easy, they go in after the warm season vegetable plants have been tucked into the compost bin. These all occupied space in the winter garden but didn't provide any harvests. I started harvesting spring onions in March and green garlic in April, but the bulk of the mature garlic and onions weren't lifted until June. The rotational challenge with alliums is that you can't grow them in a spot where you want to grow your summer vegetables that need an earlier start such as tomatoes.

February 22, 2014

The spring onions, greens and poppies were finished in time for me to grow summer cauliflower and broccoli (possible here because June and July tend to be rather cool). The wheat was replaced with melons and snap beans. The melon patch is now occupied by celery and celeriac. When the garlic came out I put in a double trellis of dry beans which are now finished and if I hurry up I might be able to get some peas going in that space. The peas will need frost protection but with some attenion on my part and luck with the weather I might be able to get a very early spring harvest. I still need to fine tune these successions. After the onions came out that space sat empty for a few months until I set out new cauliflower seedlings just recently. Next year I think I may experiment with starting the fall/winter brassicas in two successions by sowing seeds in June and July and putting the starts in the garden a month apart. Perhaps I can extend the harvest a bit that way. The spaces where the onions and shallots grew were empty for a while this summer so that type of succession planting should be possible next year.

Let's take a look at the veggies that I hope to be harvesting this winter. It seems that I'm off to a good start with Romanesco broccoli and Tronchuda Beira (Portuguese cabbage/kale). I sowed seeds for these on July 19. When I start most of my brassicas I sow about a dozen seeds into a 4-inch pot. When the seedlings have developed a few true leaves I separate the seedlings, weeding out any weaklings, and pot them up individually into a 1-quart pots (repurposed yogurt containers) and allow them to grow on for a few weeks. When they are large enough to withstand the pests in the garden I plant out the best specimens, always keeping a few reserves just in case...

Tronchuda Beira (foreground) and Romanesco broccoli
These are Amazing Taste cauliflower (sorry for the bad photo, it's difficult with the longer shadows at this time of year), also started on July 19th. I think they're off to a good start also.

Lacinato kale is definitely going strong. It was seeded at the same time as the other fall/winter brassicas. This bunch is a bit munched by cabbage worms but it hasn't set them back much. Not too many aphids yet! That tends to be the biggest problem I have with kale, other than birds. Lacinato kale definitely has to be quite mature heading into winter, it grows quite slowly when the cold weather sets in and is quick to bolt in late winter.

These are Di Ciccio broccoli plants that I grew for late spring and summer harvests. They were still producing so many strong shoots when I sowed the fall/winter brassicas that I decided I didn't need replacement plants. They are still producing, albeit smaller shoots, but I also have a few pounds of frozen shoots so I don't regret my decision.

This is one of my goofs. I just could not get the celery and celeriac to grow. Last year I sowed seeds for them on July 23 and this year on August 1. The plants shown below just days ago are smaller than the plants last year on August 29.  Last year I started harvesting celery in December, this year, hmm, the plants are so small, poor things, they probably won't size up enough to provide much of a harvest before they bolt in the spring. But I had the plants and the space so I set them out anyway. Maybe they'll surprise me.

Monarch celeriac (left) Dorato d'Asti celery

One thing I decided not to grow for fall/winter harvests this year is cabbage. If I had sown seeds any time from July into early September I could have been harvesting both Napa and European type cabbages into winter. Beets are another vegetable that can be harvested into the winter if sown early enough. I'm thinking of trying to start some now since we are supposed to continue to enjoy warm weather for a while. Beet seeds sown directly into cold soil will probably fail to germinate, I know because I've tried. But I've learned that I can sow beets into paper pots and get them going indoors, then they can be set out into the garden where they will tolerate most anything that winter throws their way here. Oh, and let's not forget carrots, if the sow bugs hadn't decimated my late summer sowing of carrots I might have been pulling carrots this winter. I went ahead and sowed more carrots, but like the poor little celery and celeriac plants, they may never amount to much before I have to clear them out to make way for onions.

This year I devoted room in one bed for quick growing greens. The tunnels shown below are where I've been growing mostly salad and cutting greens plus beets and chard. This has been mostly cleaned out now, there's some lettuce and gai lan remaining in one tunnel.

The other tunnel has a bit of arugula and some baby kale remaining, both of which need to be cleaned out, and there's a few chard plants that are succumbing to powdery mildew.

But back in January I was able to start a variety of greens. I sowed seeds for a few varieties of spinach into paper pots on January 9 and got them going indoors. We had such a mild January this year that the spinach took off and I got to harvest the first round on February 27. I'm not sure that that would be possible in a "normal" colder and wetter year (what is "normal" these days?).  The unusually mild weather also allowed me to directly sow seeds in January for arugula, rapini, pac choi, Tokyo Bekana (a loose leaf napa cabbage), and mizuna which gave me a big jump on spring harvests.   You can see what was happening in my garden this past February on my February Garden Tour post.

I'm always willing to push the limits if I have the seeds, space, and time to do the work. So I'll be further testing the limits of the growing season here this fall, I've got chard, spinach, and lettuce starts that I will be setting out into these tunnels in the next few weeks. I'm going to directly sow seeds for rapini, mache, and radishes there as well. And I'm going to try to get some beets going, starting them in paper pots and then setting them out when they have a couple of true leaves.

So you may be wondering why I use the tunnels. The only way that I can grow a crop of tender greens, at least of late, is to grow them under cover otherwise the birds just devour them, that's the primary reason for the tunnels. But they are also handy if frost is predicted, it's easy to add a layer of row cover or frost cloth to the tunnels to provide overnight protection.

There's one more significant resident of the winter garden, favas! Dave would be sorely disappointed if I didn't grow favas every year. I've figured out a great rotation for planting favas. When my tomatoes are done and gone from the garden I sow the fava seeds inside the tomato cages. The birds love to dig up fava seedlings and can peck the foliage of the growing plants into oblivion. The tomato cages are a convenient support for bird netting and then as the plants grow and get heavy with beans the cages prevent the plants from flopping all over the place. The only minor disadvantage to using the cages is that it can be a little difficult to harvest the beans, but it's not as bad as having to wade through a bunch of flopped over plants. My very well drained raised beds makes it possible for me to sow fava seeds even in the coldest wettest time of the year with minimal danger of having the seeds rot in wet soil. That gives me a wide range of planting dates but I generally sow them sometime in November or December. They don't produce beans until spring, but if the plants are mature enough I harvest tender young leaves to eat as salad greens or to cook like spinach.

February 22, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

Harvest Monday - October 20, 2014

I got caught up on the harvests this past week so it looks fairly impressive once again. But I think that from here on out it's going to be slimmer pickings. There's still a few tomatoes and peppers left to ripen but not a lot, the new cucumber vines are in high gear, but most of the other veggies are winding down for the season.

Let's start with something new for the season, amaranth greens. I planted two varieties this fall, Thai Tender and Tender Green, both of which are dwarf varieties but putting out lush big leaves. This harvest was a nice surprise. I set out a bunch of seedlings but most of them were munched by birds or bugs, or they were wilted to death in a heat wave that hit before the seedlings could become well established. But the surviving plants are flourishing and the first harvest was enough for two good servings.

Most of the fall radishes are sizing up well.

Pink Beauty, Helios, and Pink Punch radishes

The struggling bean vines are giving me a decent amount of beans, I got three harvests like this this week.

Emerite Filet and Australian Butter beans

Another parade of peppers came from the garden.

Odessa Market and Piment doux long des Landes

Giallo di Cuneo

Shephard's Ramshorn


Lady Bell, NTR, Topepo Rosso, and Stocky Red Roaster

I roasted a lot of the peppers and froze them, but I also experimented with smoking some of them. I'll be writing a post about that sometime soon.

Smoked ripe Sonora peppers

Smoked NTR and Piment doux long des Landes peppers

A few more tomatoes ripened up. The birds discovered the tomatoes and I lost a number of them to their pecking before I figured out what was up.

Chianti Rose tomatoes

But for whatever reason the birds don't seem to like the Jaune Flamme tomatoes. I also harvested more cherry tomatoes but didn't photograph them.

Jaune Flamme tomatoes
The Tromba d'Albenga zucchini vines are keeping ahead of the powdery mildew and keep putting out a few new squash a couple of times a week. I've been slicing and drying most of them lately.

Tromba d'Albenga zucchini

Oh My Gosh. This is what happens when I don't get around to picking cucumbers for a couple of days.

Green Fingers Persian cucumbers

And of course there's more cucumbers a day or two later. Thank goodness the Padrons have slowed down. I only have to harvest them once a week now.

Padron peppers and Green Fingers cucumbers

More Tromba squash and the third harvest of beans for the week. Even the big Tromba squash are good, especially the long neck portion which has no seeds.

The Di Ciccio broccoli plants put out a few more shoots. They are getting smaller as the plants age but they are still tasty. I also salvaged the heart of a head of Sweetie Baby romaine lettuce that was too pitiful to photograph. The romaine lettuce was coming along beautifully and then seemingly overnight it seemed like both powdery mildew and spider mites attacked. (PM and spider mites have both been scourges this year). And I also tallied another sweet red onion. I didn't weigh all the onions at once when they had cured, I've been tallying them as I use them. I'm amazed at how well they have kept. There's only three left, I'll be sad when they are gone, they have been SO good. The tally for the red onions is 23.6 pounds so far, the Candy onions came in at 20.7 pounds and the Superstar onions at 25.9 pounds. I also harvested 15 pounds of "spring" onions.

Here's the details of the harvests for the past week:

Amaranth greens - 14.2 oz.
Australian Butter beans - 13.5 oz.
Emerite Filet beans - 13.3 oz.
Di Ciccio Broccoli - 9.3 oz.
Green Fingers cucumbers - 5 lb., 13.7 oz.
Sweetie Baby romaine lettuce - 6.8 oz.
Red Candy Apple onion - 2 lb., .7 oz. (yup, just one big one!)
Giallo di Cuneo bell peppers - 2 lb., 2.3 oz.
Lady Bell peppers - 2 lb., .3 oz.
NTR peppers - 12.9 oz.
Odessa Market peppers - 1 lb., 11.7 oz.
Padron peppers - 8.9 oz.
Piment doux long des Landes peppers - 14.2 oz.
Shephard's Ramshorn peppers - 3 lb., 5.1 oz.
Sonora peppers - 5 lb., 14.7 oz.
Stocky Red Roaster peppers - 11.7 oz.
Topepo Rosso peppers - 5.4 oz.
Helios radishes - 5.3 oz.
Pink Beauty radishes - 2.1 oz.
Pink Punch radishes - 8.9 oz.
Selzer Purple radishes - 6.2 oz.
Chianti Rose tomatoes - 7 lb., 10.3 oz.
Isis Candy cherry tomatoes - 36.5 oz.
Jaune Flamme tomatoes - 3 lb., 11.3 oz.
Potiron Ecarlate tomatoes - 3 lb., 7.8 oz.
Sweet Gold cherry tomatoes - 2 lb., 15.6 oz.
Tromba d'Albenga zucchini - 7 lb., 4.8 oz.

The total harvests for the past week were - 58 lb., 11.5 oz. (26.6 kg.)
Which brings the total harvests for 2014 up to - 1,071 lb., 15.5 oz. (486.2 kg.)

Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphne on her blog Daphne's Dandelions, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Harvest Monday - October 13, 2014

The harvests were a lot lighter this past week and I don't have many photos to show either since I tended to harvest at the end of the day and didn't have time to take photos before I lost the natural light (my indoor lighting is terrible for photos). There also could have been more in the tally this week if I had gotten around to harvesting more ripe peppers, there's a bunch more in the garden but I just didn't get to it.

This was my harvest Sunday morning. You can see I started to harvest the peppers but the weather got surprisingly hot which drove me indoors before I could finish the job. That's the last Alvaro Charentais melon, I pulled the plants and put them in the compost. It turns out that just 2 vines produced 28.7 pounds of good melons.

These are all the ears of Cascade Ruby Gold flint corn that came from my 15 plants. It didn't take long to shuck the ears, one evening in front of the TV. The net was 2 lb., 4.5 oz of the Gold and 3 lb., 4.8 oz. of the Ruby.

These are the remaining ears of Floriani Red flint corn that I cut from the plants on Friday. I had harvested 6 ears earlier which fortunately were all full of kernels since the ears on the windward side of the patch didn't pollinate at all well. These are finishing drying inside and I haven't shucked any yet so they aren't included in the tally.

The harvests that didn't get photographed last week included a few nice handfuls of beans from the struggling new planting of beans, more broccoli shoots, loads of cucumbers from the happy new plants, a few radishes and some zucchini.

I came up with one new dish this week that Dave really enjoyed. I stuffed some roasted sweet peppers with a mixture of goat cheese and confited garlic, added a sprinkle of crispy whole wheat bread crumbs, and baked them with a drizzle of good olive oil. Big yum.

Here's the harvests for the past week:

Australian Butter beans - 9.6 oz.
Emerite Filet beans - 6.2 oz.
Di Ciccio broccoli - 1 lb., 4.5 oz.
Cascade Ruby Gold flint corn - 5 lb., 9.3 oz.
Green Fingers Persian cucumbers - 3 lb., 10.6 oz.
Alvaro Charentais melon - 2 lb., 5.3 oz.
Lady Bell pepper - 6.3 oz.
Padron peppers - 7.1 oz.
Tarahumara Chile Colorado peppers - 1 lb., .6 oz.
Pink Beauty radishes - 2.4 oz.
Pink Punch radishes - 1 oz.
Helios radishes - .8 oz.
Romanesco zucchini - 4.2 oz. (last gasp)
Tromba D'Albenga zucchini - 3 lb., 12.1 oz.

The harvests for the past week were - 20 lb.
Which brings the harvests for 2014 up to - 1,012 lb., 15.8 oz.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphne on her blog Daphne's Dandelions, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Variety Spotlight - Petaluma Gold Rush Beans

A lot of vegetable varieties come and go in my garden. All you have to do is look at my stash of seeds which reveals how promiscuous I can be about the varieties that I grow. There's always something in some seed catalog to tempt me. Or I may find inspiration in a magazine or newspaper article or a blog. So when I return to a particular variety year after year you know it has to be a winner both in the garden and the kitchen.

Petaluma Gold Rush beans have proven themselves again this year and have earned a place in the spotlight. I first read about these beans in a charming little book by William Woys Weaver - 100 Vegetables and Where They Came From. (That book has sent me on a number of searches for what can be maddeningly difficult or impossible to find seeds). Petaluma Gold Rush beans nearly disappeared but Mr. Weaver seemingly rescued them (I don't know the details of that story) and offered seeds through the Seed Savers Exchange yearbook which is how I got my seeds. Fortunately, the beans are once again being grown in the area for which they are named and the seeds are available from a local seed purveyor.

The reason I was initially interested in growing these beans is because they are a somewhat local heirloom. Petaluma is 150 miles north of where I live. The beans were brought to California in the 1840's from Peru and were already on the scene when the get-rich-quick bunch of 49er's started the rush to dig for gold and these beans apparently fed many a gold miner through the gold rush years. The Azevedo family continued to grow the beans for over 150 years but for some reason they stopped growing them and the beans were nearly lost. I am quite happy that Mr. Weaver rescued these beans.

I think that one of the reasons these beans do so well in my garden is because the climate here is quite similar to the area around Petaluma where these beans were grown for such a long time. Both areas are heavily influenced by the cold Pacific ocean. Our long growing season gets off to a cool start but finishes warm. The beans seem to thrive in the cool weather, growing quickly and putting on lush growth. Each vine puts out numerous side shoots and easily tops the 6 foot trellis that I provide for them.

This year I sowed 36 individual paper pots on June 17 and set those out about 1 week later at the base of a 6 foot wide by 6 foot high trellis.

July 2
The plants seemed to grow a bit slowly at first.

July 15

But it didn't take long for the vines to start climbing. On the 27th the tops of the first vines were still a couple of feet below the top of the trellis.

July 27
But in only three days the quickest grower had covered that two feet. (Look at the pea soup fog that was keeping things cool that morning, so typical).

July 30
Less than two weeks later the vines were passing the top of the trellis and numerous side shoots were climbing up and filling out. My main task with these plants at this time was to continually tuck the side shoots in so that they would grow up the trellis rather than across the bed or into the path.

August 12
Another two weeks and the vines had made a dense wall of foliage and they were loaded with pods. At this point I could have harvested some of the beans as snap beans, they are supposedly good at the green stringless stage. But I grow other snap beans and I don't want to reduce my harvest of dried beans so all the beans were left to mature.

August 30

August 30

The foliage was so dense at this time that a gentle wind threatened to push the trellis over and I had to secure it to some stakes on the opposite side of the bed.

August 30

By the end of September the beans had matured and the plants were quickly dropping their leaves to reveal the drying pods.

October 3
Most of the pods contain 6 beans. They dry to a creamy background color with magenta markings and a bit of a yellow eye around the hilum, although there's a few that come out with opposite markings - magenta with creamy marks.

But beauty and a good performance in the garden don't guarantee a repeat appearance in future years. I won't bother to grow something that I don't want to eat. Petaluma Gold Rush beans have a creamy texture but hold their shape. The flavor is full and meaty. They are a good multi-purpose bean, good in soups and salads and one of Dave's favorite preparations - beans & greens, in which I mash the beans with olive oil and seasonings and serve it with braised greens. Back in the days when we ate bread much more often, I would top garlic toast with the mashed beans and top that with the greens. Oh yum.

October 6

The harvest of dried pods went quickly this year. I collected 2 lb., 9 oz. on September 26, then 3 lb., 15 oz. on October 3, and then another 2 lb., 7 oz. on October 6. Another handful came off the vines today and there's just another handful of beans left to finish drying. The preliminary weight for the shelled beans is about 7 pounds, plus I harvested 3/4 pound of pods to use as shelly beans. The last time I grew Petaluma Gold Rush beans was in 2010, about the same number of plants and the harvest came in at 7 lb., 7 oz. of dried beans. Remarkably consistent!

The 7 pound supply will keep me in beans for the next couple of years so the soonest I'll be growing these again will be in 2016. If you are interested in growing these beans you can find seeds at Natural Gardening. If you grow these I would love to hear what you think of them and how they grow for you. You can find more of my Variety Spotlights here or by clicking on the tab on the header bar of my blog.