Grow a Second Crop of Green Beans
In Southern California we are lucky enough to grow a fall crop of beans. With warm days still ahead the beans will sprout and grow quickly. Bush beans are your best bet, with shorter days to harvest than pole beans you should be able to harvest in just 45-50 days. Check your seed packet for harvesting information.
There are three types of bush beans, snap beans (eat the pod & all), shelling beans (eat the beans inside the pod like peas) or dried beans. Dried beans you’ll want to leave on the plant until everything has dried up, pick the dried pods and put into a grocery bag. You can knock the bag around to remove the shell or pull the dried pod away from the beans. I like to freeze the beans for 24 hours to kill any pests that may have hitched a ride. Then store in a glass jar or other container in your pantry, away from heat and light. When you’re ready to use them, treat them like any other dried bean (that’s another story….)
Most bush beans don’t need to be trellised, and they produce most of their crop all at once. For a great harvest and good use of space, plant Square Foot Gardening style, 9 plants to a square foot.
To get the best crop inoculate your bean seeds before planting. Beans, peas and all legumes ‘fix’ nitrogen into the soil. The inoculant, Rhizobium leguminosarum, is a nitrogen fixing bacteria. These bacteria “infect” the legumes growing in the soil and cause the legumes to form the nitrogen fixing nodules that make peas and beans bombshells.
You should be able to find the inoculant at any garden center or nursery. It can also be ordered from www.groworganic.com (Peaceful Valley Farm Supply).
While you are digging the holes for the seed, soak the seeds in water for about ½ hour. Dig your hole and sprinkle a generous helping of inoculant into the hole. Water and then plant your seeds. They’ll take up to 10 days to sprout, don’t overwater while you are waiting for them to poke up from the ground, overwatering can cause the seed to rot before it sprouts. Watch out for birds as well, they love seeds! I like to cover my bed with a floating row cover until the seeds are up and have several sets of leaves.
Give the plants 2 – 3” of water a week and you can side dress with a little compost. I mulch my beds with straw to help keep water evaporation down and to keep weeds from sprouting.
Plant companion plants near beans for the best growing bed, they like to grow near beets, cucumber, nasturtiums, peas and radish.
Watch for pests such as a cucumber beetle, bean beetle or weevil. I planted my beans near basil which is usually a good pest deterrent but this year those white butterflies (which are really cabbage moths) laid eggs on the basil and the little worms devoured my newly sprouted beans. So I planted a new round because I love green beans, especially in the fall. I freeze some for soups when winter comes and hopefully have enough until next spring when I can get some more in the ground.
Here’s an easy side dish recipe for you to try.
Fudgy, chewy, mild or hot…..a delicious treat!
There are many ways to save your harvest and if you have more tomatoes than you know what to do with here are some ideas.
First and foremost is water bath canning, I love this because it means that I can store tomatoes on the shelf in my pantry for the year. Fairly easy to do but when it’s hot and humid out like it has been this summer FORGET IT!
As many of you already know, I like to freeze my tomatoes also so later when it’s cool I can make sauce or unfreeze and can them to make more room in the freezer for up and coming dinners. Freezing tomatoes is the fastest way to get things done, wash, and dry then freeze on a baking sheet until frozen solid, pop into a freezer bag and you are done for the day! You can remove one or four at a time, whatever you need and as they begin to defrost, which is almost right away, the skin will slip off easily.
My second favorite is to make Oven Roasted Tomatoes, although it does require having the oven on for some length of time. I love to dry my cherry tomatoes and then float them in a good olive oil and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Chopped in a salad, in a bruschetta or top on a pizza, they pack a flavorful punch. Fill up your baking sheet and get started right away!
Add a baby green salad tossed lightly with olive oil & vinegar for a nice summer lunch or light dinner.
I first tasted these at The Santa Monica Farmers Market about 15 years ago when The Two Hot Tamale girls were doing a demo for their restaurant, Border Grill (now closed, sadly). It’s a perfect little snack for an early summer day, zucchini plants are going wild with flowers and are daring to be picked & stuffed. Make sure you pick all male blossoms rather than female blossoms or you won’t have any fruit. To tell the difference look at the bottom of the flower, you’ll see a round little nub or small zucchini attached, this is a female blossom….move on. The male blossoms are attached just by them stem with no nub at the bottom, you’ll be able to tell. Open the flowers gently as there may be a bee inside collecting pollen, he will fly away when you open the petals, be gentle. If you want to wash them use cool water and dry well but do this just before you’re ready to prepare the dish. Or you can buy them at your local farmers market, the blossoms are delicate and will last no more than a day so pick right before you’re going to make the quesadillas.
This is by far my favorite dish with hints of Meyer lemon and sea salt and I like to add some roasted baby potatoes to the pan to soak up some of the juices. I use ‘Mary’s Organic Chicken‘ always for the best meat, always tender & juicy, it costs a little more but I think it’s worth the extra few bucks. (And they didn’t pay me to say that). And I love to tuck into the pan the ‘Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes’ from Melissa’s Produce!
You can dress this up by making the ‘pan’ sauce listed in the recipe of you can by pass it. I’ve also made brioche dressing for the side and it makes a great holiday dish without the hassle of cooking a whole turkey dinner. Add a beautiful green vegetable and you’ll find an easy weeknight dinner. It pairs well with my Spring Asparagus recipe. Prep all the ingredients the night before & you can walk in the door, pop the chicken in a preheated oven and within the hour you’ll have the best meal in town, no drive through chicken can EVER take the place of a chicken roasted at home.
I love sweet California asparagus, especially the small early stalks simply sautéed in butter and seasoned with a little lemon zest, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. But for serving to guests I also enjoy this quick and easy gratin, it pairs well with Lemon Roasted Chicken and a cold glass of Viognier.
Photo: LA Times
Photo: Chef Jon
A Christmas Roast, Dec. 2016
After the huge cooking spree for Thanksgiving I’m happy to create a simple elegant meal for Christmas and I always turn to a rib roast. Most people refer to them as a ‘prime rib’ yet that really refers to the grade of meat. While USDA Prime Grade is the best, it can also be on the expensive side, while a good ‘Choice’ grade is nearly as good as the prime, it can be purchased for much less. Both roasts are considered ‘standing rib roast’ and you treat them equally in cooking.
Costco has the absolute best deal on both Choice and Prime Grade roasts, choose bone in for the best flavor and juiciness. Either roast will need to cook a little longer with the bone in but the flavor is superior. A trick you can do is cut the bones off the roast and tie them back onto the roast, you’ll still get juicy flavor but won’t need to roast quite as long.
The roast will take some time to come to room temperature so remove from the refrigerator 3 house before roasting. Pre heat your oven for 30 minutes and roast for approximately 15 – 20 minutes per pound, start with a high heat, 450°, for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 325° and continue cooking. Use a digital probe thermometer for best results, it’s worth spending $15 or $20 on a digital thermometer for a $75.00 roast.
For rare roast remove from the oven when the thermometer reaches 120°, for medium rare, 125° or 130° for medium, the meat will continue to cook (called carry over cooking time) while it rests. I like to serve the roast with a Red Wine Sauce or Bordelaise Sauce but remember that your sauce will only be as good as the beef stock you use so use the best. Homemade is tops but if you must purchase a stock try More Than Gourmet Glace de Veau (veal stock). Standing rib roasts are great on the grill also but that’s another story.
Photo: Josh, The Meatwave