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Bush Beans A-Plenty

Bush Beans A-Plenty

Posted by on Aug 20, 2014 in Backyard, Do it Yourself, Gardens, Recipe, Vegetable Gardens |

In addition to the joy I get from my flower gardens, I love being able to go into my own yard and pick vegetables for dinner.  One of the easiest things that I have found to grow are Bush Beans.  Unlike pole beans they do not require any special structures. They grow about 30 cm high and produce lots and lots of beans.  If you are very organized, it is worth planting new batches about every two weeks so you spread out your harvest and you can enjoy fresh beans for a month or six weeks. The big caveat with beans is that they are best planted when the soil is warm, so I waited until nearly June to plant my first crop.

Last year I purchased this package of tricoloured seeds.  Of course you can tell from the seeds whether you can expect yellow, green or purple beans.

Bush Bean Seeds

Bush Bean Seeds

I planted the seeds in front of a south facing fence that received full sun.  The seeds sprouted within ten days.

Bean Sprouts

Bean Sprouts

They grew with little intervention on my part, save having run the weeping hose down the middle to water them most days.

Young Beans Plants (about 4 weeks)

Young Beans Plants (about 4 weeks)

Then about six weeks or so, they began to flower.  They really filled in the empty spaces in my garden quite nicely with a beautiful green ground cover.

Beans a-blooming

Beans a-blooming

At about nine weeks, we were able to begin harvesting.  I think I might have planted them a little too close together, but they seemed to do alright.

Thick with Bush Beans

Thick with Bush Beans

I was able to harvest at least three times from these plants.  The results were beautifully colourful.  The purple ones are my favourite.

Tricoloured Bush Beans in Yellow, Green and Purple

Tricoloured Bush Beans in Yellow, Green and Purple

What to do with all those beans, especially if you plant multiple times?  Bush beans seem to freeze well and I was able to share lots with the office.  My all time favourite recipe though is for spicy Szechuan Green Beans courtesy Gwendolyn Richards of the Calgary Herald.  It smells amazing when you fry up all my favourite things: garlic, ginger in some sesame oil, then topped off with some toasted sesame seeds.

Spicy Szechuan Beans

Spicy Szechuan Beans

Interestingly, the purple beans turn a shade of green when sautéed this way.  Enjoy!

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The Quest for a Perfect Rhubarb Pie

Posted by on Jul 16, 2014 in Backyard, Do it Yourself, Gardens, Inspiration, Recipe | 4 comments

Summer Flavour

Summer Flavour

The joys of summertime in Canada are the flavours that burst from the earth as soon as the ground warms and the snows melt away.  My all-time favourite flavour growing up was my Mummo’s homemade rhubarb pie.  I haven’t had a slice in nearly thirty years but I can still imagine its tanginess tickling my tongue.

Recently, I set out on a mini quest to try and recreate the culinary marvel of my childhood.  It was not like the rhubarb pie that you’d buy from the bakery at the grocery store, deep and puffy.  The profile of her pies were quite low, probably about 10 cm or so.   The filling was more like a rhubarb puré.  The texture was very smooth and did not have the stringiness we usually associate with rhubarb.

With this is mind, I turned to the internet and posted a query on Reddit.  In response, a generous gentleman posted a recipe he had from an old cookbook.  I decided to give it a try, figuring that if nothing else I would have a baseline to work with in my quest to recreate Mummo’s delicious pie.

Crazily, I chose Canada Day, July 1st to launch the experiment.  It was record breakingly hot day here in White Rock and I harvested the stocks of rhubarb from my back fence.

Rhubarb: easy  to grow and delicious

Rhubarb: easy to grow and delicious

Thank goodness for my granite counter tops that day as I rolled out the dough.  It kept things cool enough that the crust didn’t stick too much.

Rolling the Crust

Rolling the Crust

I learned to make my pie crust from our family friend Sylvia Rukkila.  Her secret, which she learned in turn from her father, was to replace the one cup of shortening called for on the Crisco box with equal parts shortening, butter and margarine.  I’ve always found this to make a wonderfully flaky crust.

The filling recipe shared with me by le127 on Reddit called for:

*4 cups cut rhubarb pieces

*1 2/3 cup sugar

*1/3 cup flour

*1/8 tsp salt

Mix together and let stand 15 minutes. Fill pie shell, dot with 2 tbsp butter and apply top crust. Bake 40 min @ 400F.

With all the ingredients added, I topped it with dabs of butter as required.  Would this be the secret ingredient?

Is this the secret, dabs of butter?

Is this the secret, dabs of butter?

Then added the top crust and fluted the edges.

Rhubarb Pie with fluted crust

Rhubarb Pie with fluted crust

As the temperature rose inside the house, I could have baked the pie on the counter, but the air was filled with aroma of baking rhubarb.

The pie looked beautiful.

Rhubarb Pie: fresh from the oven

Rhubarb Pie: fresh from the oven

My son and I enjoyed a slice à la mode, and it was very tasty.   However, it was not quite the same as Mummo’s.  Next time I’ll try a little less rhubarb and try to grate it to get it really fine.  My quest for the perfect rhubarb pie recipe continues.

Rhubarb Pie à la mode

Rhubarb Pie à la mode

How about you?  Ay secret tips for an amazing rhubarb pie?  I’d love to hear from you!

 

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Fresh Swiss Chard from the Garden

Posted by on Jun 20, 2014 in Recipe, Square Foot Garden, Vegetable Gardens |

 

Square Foot Gardening at Our House

Square Foot Gardening at Our House

One of the best reasons to have a plot of land is the vegetable garden I am able to grow.  Some crops provide near-instant gratification.  One of the quickest trips to my table was by fresh chard from the garden.

I use a modified version of a square foot garden, but not in raised beds.   We started out with a 4 x 3 grid last year and this year for Mothers’ Day my son helped me build two more frames.  I’ve added in some weeping hose and a timer, so it basically waters itself.  The squares keep me very organized and makes it easy to know how much to plant.   You can see how quickly this rainbow chard filled out it square.  I’m pretty sure I had four plants per box last year.

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard

Swiss chard needs very little maintenance and will happily continue to grow as you harvest the leaves.  I just take a small paring knife out to the garden with me and cut it close to the ground.

Here’s my first crop of the year:

Swiss Chard Ready to Cook

Swiss Chard Ready to Cook

The trick then is to find recipes for all these healthy greens.  One of my favourites and a great choice if you are looking for some meat substitutes, calls for Pinto Beans and goat cheese.  How can you go wrong?  You can find the recipe here.  I especially like the pinch of red pepper flakes.  After you bake it it looks like this:

IMG_0367

 

Do you have a favourite Swiss Chard recipe?  Be sure to share it.  We’ll be eating a lot of chard this summer!

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