I think it’s safe to say the summer vegetable garden is slowly winding down. And by September, I am usually quite ready for that to happen. The bush dried beans are all done for now, so I pulled up what was left of the plants, and my wife and I spent some time last week shelling out and picking through the beans. Growing dry beans is somewhat challenging in our area with the hot and humid summers that we typically have. The beans tend to rot or even sprout in the pod before they are ready to harvest. This year I grew three bush varieties: Jacob’s Cattle, Whipple and Hutterite Soup. I also have pole dry beans growing but they won’t be ready for awhile longer.
Jacob’s Cattle is a tried and true bean that has done well for me over the years. It’s also sometimes called Trout bean or Appaloosa, no doubt due to the spotted markings on the beans themselves. This year the beans were quite variable in color, with many not spotted at all, but that shouldn’t change the way they taste or cook up. I devoted a ten foot section of row to each of the three bean varieties, and Jacob’s Cattle yielded 26 ounces of dried beans.
A newcomer here that sounded interesting to me is the Whipple bean. It’s popular in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where the growing conditions are no doubt quite different than they are here in the Southern Ohio Valley! The beans themselves are fat and almost round, and purplish-red in color with some white spots. Whipple yielded 16 ounces of dried beans. They look like a nice meaty bean that should be good for soups, salads or side dishes.
Hutterite Soup bean is a small greenish yellow bean with a distinctive eye. It’s slightly larger than a Navy bean, and is an heirloom that was cultivated by the Hutterite religious group. I got my seed from the Seed Savers Exchange, who got their seed stock from a Hutterite colony in North Dakota. The beans are supposed to be quick cooking, and make a creamy, delicate tasting soup. They wound up being the least productive for me, yielding only 14 ounces. It’s enough for a nice batch of soup though, and I look forward to tasting it whenever it gets to be soup weather around here. Growing dried beans is perhaps not the most productive use of garden space, but it is fun to try some of the many types that are out there. And of course the beans are good to eat too!
Both sweet and hot peppers continue to ripen. We’ve been enjoying the sweet ones a number of different ways. The hot ones will mostly be dried, roasted, frozen or made into hot sauce, so I tend to let a bunch of them ripen before I harvest and process them. In the below photo there’s the big red bell pepper Big Bertha along with Topepo Rosso, Jimmy Nardello, two orange Hot Happy Yummys and two Early Sunsations. A White Scallop squash also came in that day and appears to have photobombed the peppers!
Another project I’m working on is saving some of the o/p tomato seeds. The recommended procedure calls for squeezing out the seeds into a container and letting them ferment for a few days. The fermentation removes the little gelatinous sack that encases the fresh tomato seed, and helps kill many seed borne diseases. I sometimes add a bit of water if the mix seems dry. You can eat what’s left of the tomato too, so it’s not all wasted.
After a day or two they will develop a layer of mold and start smelling pretty much like a rotten tomato! In the below photo the white patches on the surface are mold. I won’t go into all the details here, but I generally follow the instructions in my favorite seed-saving reference book Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth. After fermenting the seeds are rinsed, strained and then dried before packaging up.
The slicing tomatoes seem to have taken a break for a bit. There are still plenty of the small fruited types coming on for us though. In the below photo we have Black Cherry, Juliet, Green Tiger and Golden Sweet.
They all went in a batch of salsa I made, using our tomatoes, onions, garlic and cilantro. Instead of peppers I used a splash of homemade hot sauce to give it a bit of zip. I often make salsa using the smaller tomatoes, and I love the mix of colors and tastes they bring.
Another project this past week involved making soap. My wife and I made two batches, one a Lavender Bastille and the other our Flower Child Coconut Milk. You can blame me for the soap names. We don’t sell our soaps but I do like to give them descriptive names. I need to share the recipes here since I know there are a few soap makers out there and these are two of my favorite soaps at the moment. Needless to say they smell so much better than the fermenting tomato seeds! That’s the Bastille soap on the left in the below photo, and the golden color comes from a bit of honey in the mix. The sugars in the honey help increase the lather, and the color usually fades to a light tan as the soap cures.
I didn’t bake any loaves of bread last week, but I did make a double batch of Whole Wheat Sourdough Pita Bread. I often make a double batch of pita bread, because once the oven is hot (and the pizza stone I bake them on) it just makes sense to take advantage of it. They also freeze well, and that’s what we do with the extras. It’s so easy to pull one out of the freezer and let it thaw a bit before eating. They’re almost as good as new that way, and definitely better than store-bought ones.
That’s a look at what’s happening here in early September. To see what other gardeners are harvesting, cooking and preserving, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays every week. And thank you Daphne for helping to create this great community of garden bloggers!