Growing Cannellini Beans

When it comes to easy growing and variety options nothing can match up with the bean. Stores like Whole Foods Market are starting to get into more varieties of heirloom dried beans. And why not. they are good for you. I find that when it comes for looking for bean seeds to plant you often find more selection in the bulk section than on the display of seed packets. When you buy dried beans in the store you are buying the seeds themselves. So certainly you can plant those dried beans in your garden. One type of bean I wanted to try was Cannellini beans also known as white kidney beans. These are one of my wife’s favorite beans for soups.

Growing Cannellini Beans

Selecting Beans to Grow
One thing to be ware of when choosing to grow dried beans from the store is that the germination rate may not be as good as if you buy them from a seed company. These beans are not being stored and maintained for the purpose of growing. Also depending on your source they could have been sitting around for a while. That is why it’s best to buy them from a store that sells them in bulk so that you are not buying them in a bag that has been sitting around for who knows how long. Also look for organically grown beans then you can grow them organically yourself.

Growing Cannellini Beans

Growing the Beans
I planted the beans in early June after there was no risk for frost in my area. Like I mentioned the germination rate wasn’t the best, so I did plant some more seeds in a couple spots where plants did not come up. These beans have a bush habit of growing so you don’t have to worry about staking them. About a month later they began to produce flowers. Two weeks after that the beans were ready to pick for green beans. I wanted to try them in their green form to see how they tasted and to encourage the plants to grow more beans.

Cannellini Beans Ready to Pick

Ready to Pick for Fresh Beans
Roughly 2 to 3 weeks after the beans were green they were ready to pick. How do you know they are ready? They turn yellow when the beans inside are ripe. You can also feel the pods. Do the beans inside feel plumb? If so they are ready even if the outside is still green. I do find they are easier to peel if the pods are yellow. You also have to watch you if they start to shrivel the beans inside will become too dry, which is good if you want dried beans but I grew them for fresh eating. I will probably end up with some dried which will be perfect to save for next year.

Cannellini Beans Shelling

How to Cook Fresh Cannellini Beans?
Once you have them shelled, just place them into a saucepan cover with enough water to just cover. Slightly salt the water. Then bring them to a boil and cover and simmer until done. You can mix them with couscous, soup, use them in salads, or season them with with some garlic, pepper, and herbs and eat them as it. They are creamy and delicious with a much fresher taste than in their dried state.

Cannellini Bean Salad

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Peas and Oats Sprouting

One of my favorite times of year is when I get to plant my peas in the ground. It’s the favorite garden veggie of choice at this household. The kids can’t get enough for those candy-like peas picked fresh from the garden. When I was looking up some information on peas this past winter I came across the ideas of growing oats with the peas. The oats are planted at the same time as the peas. The peas can then climb up the oats as they grow providing a trellis that not only is a lot cheaper than buying fencing but also add nutrients to the soil. I am excited to give this a try. I will keep you on the progress as the plants grow.

Related link: See my post on Cheap Pea Trellis Options

Peas and Oats Sprouting

The varieties of peas that I am growing this year are: Super Sugar Snap, Green Arrow Shelling Peas, Mammoth Melting Snow Peas, Oregon Snow Peas, Wando Shelling Peas.

When planting the peas and oats I made sure I had enough room to walk in between each row so I could get in to access the peas when they are ready. I marked each row with a brick and made sure I could fit both my feet between each row. The pea plants themselves can be planted close together as they have shallow rows and I find thrive when competing with their neighboring plants.

Peas and Oats Sprouting

I planted my peas right at the end of March. The weather has been back and forth with a lot of cool, below freezing nights. While peas and oats can withstand these frosty nights it took the seeds a while to germinate – over 2 weeks. By the end of April the peas started to establish themselves with their leaves unfolded and signs of the tendrils being formed.

Peas and Oats Sprouting

I have never grown oats before so I am interested in seeing how they take off. The variety I choose was Cayuse Oats. Right now the are both the same height as the pea, depending on the individual plant. All I need is for the oats to get tall enough for the peas to have something to grab onto.

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I love to garden. I love the thrill of bitting into food that I grew myself. What I don’t like is the expense you have to pay to start up a garden. It starts adding up quickly. I moved recently, so I am kind of starting over this year. You can be sure I will be looking for ways to save some money. That is what got me thinking about searching out cheap options to use as a trellis for growing peas. There are plenty of things that are easy to run out to Home Depot to pick up. I would rather find a cheaper alternatives. Here are some that I have come up with. I would love to hear if any of you pea growers have tried these before.

Using Sticks
At some garden stores you can buy pea sticks. Why buy what you can find around your yard. Search your yard after the next storm or windy day for sticks that you can use. The trouble is getting them the right size. The differences can provide a rustic charm. You have to make sure your stick is going to stand up and not break after the peas have made their way up them. Also you must be concerned with height. Check to see how high your peas grow. Finding sticks that are really tall might be a problem. You can consider going with
shorter varieties of peas.

Peas Tomato Cages

Using Tomato Cages
A good way to get multiple uses out of something. Peas can grow on tomato cages just find. The best part is peas are a spring crop. You can grow them on the cages, harvest them, and still have time to put them on the tomatoes before they collapse. I tried this one year. It did well. Althought my peas eventually got too tall for the cages, so you have to watch the height of your cage versus the height your peas are suppose to grow.

Using Wheat/Oats
Just yesterday I read on a seed website the idea of growing oats next to the peas. The oats provide support as the peas grow. I have done a similar concept with growing beans on corn stalks (part of a Three Sisters garden). I am really intrigued by this idea. I don’t know how the timing would work out. Plus corn stalks are stronger than wheat or oats. Has anyone else given this a try before? I have done some research but haven’t specifically found someone who employs this method. It’s a great idea as long as you can time it right.

I will be on the look out for more cheap alternatives. Don’t let expensive trellis stop you from growing peas. They are one of my favorite crops of the year. Nothing beats the sweetness of a shelling and eating a pea right out in the garden. They are candy to my kids!

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I haven’t talked a whole lot about varieties of lettuces on this blog. I am looking to do that more often in 2013. I hope to help get you away from buying the bagged, prepared lettuces and working on making your own mixes. It’s cheaper and allows you all that creative freedom you desire. Today we are going to talk about Curly Endive. There are different lettuces that are endive. Belgian Endive is pure white with yellow on top. Curly Endive is very different from Belgian. Just look at the picture above (or below). It has naturally curly leaves. It is sometimes referred to as chicory.

What Does Curly Endive Taste Like?
Crisp leaves with a bitter taste is the best way to describe it. The inner leaves tend to be less bitter and more mild. I think it’s best used as part of a salad mix, then for a salad on it’s own (although you certainly could). As for salad dressing, a sweet dressing is recommend, like a honey mustard or the root vegetable dressing I made last week.

Can You Cook with Curly Endive?
Most certainly. I haven’t tried to yet but other bloggers I have. I found a recipe for a Curly Endive Mash featuring potatoes, cheese, and red bell pepper. Another website recommended wilting it along with some citrus flavors, garlic, almonds, and dates.

Growing Curly Endive
Curly Endive grows as a head, but not a tight head, so you can harvest outer leaves allowing the plant to continue to grow. It takes a while to grow 65 to 85 days depending on the exact variety. It doesn’t like heat, it will bolt if it gets too hot. For growing in the spring, you will need to start your seeds indoors or you can wait for a summer planting for a fall harvest where you don’t have to be as concerned about the heat.

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When one is going about picking tomatoes to choose to grow the choices can be overwhelming. Cherries, beefsteaks, yellow ones, plum, grape, pear, chocolate colored, and the list goes on. You can spend a lifetime growing different varieties. If that is your mission I can give you a hand – cross the Indigo Rose variety off your list. It has to be one of the worst varieties of tomatoes I have ever grown.

Before I expound on why I don’t like this variety, let me give you a little background on it. Indigo Rose was developed at Oregon State University. Their mission is to breed tomatoes with higher levels of antioxidants. The purples and blues of the produce world are said to have high levels of antioxidants, such as the blueberry. Indigo Rose is a purple tomato.

The unique thing about this variety is that it doesn’t start out green, but it’s final purple color. This presents a challenge. How do you know when it’s ripe. Well the tomato isn’t fully purple. The underneath side is green as it’s the sunlight that causes the purple color to come out. Eventually the underside will turn red when the tomato is ripe. Problem is in order to harvest the tomatoes you have to check underneath them. Often when doing this I ended up accidentally snapping the tomato off. The purple colors turns more brownish when it ripens but you have to have a really good eye to notice that.

The plant performs relatively well considering the drought and super high temperature we experienced this summer. It held up a lot better than my Amish Paste tomatoes. I had to grow them in containers this year as I was moving half through the season.

As for the flavor, first off if you pick it before it’s ready, you will be really sorry. If not perfectly ripe this variety is taste terrible and is tough. Even when ripe, we found it to have a tough outer skin. Also the sweetness to acidic ratio of this tomato was not what my wife wanted in a cherry tomato. We decided not to use them for fresh eating , but just cook them up into sauce to add to pasta at a later point. The sauce actually came out rather nicely, so maybe all isn’t lost. But even so, Indigo Rose won’t be making a return visit to my garden.

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The most frustrating thing for a gardener is when you got through all the hard work of planting something and then you wake up the next morning to find that a critter decided to turn your hard work into a midnight snack. One of the biggest problems can be rabbits. Oh they may be cute but when it comes to your garden they are pure evil. So what is a person to do? The last two years I have been planting my tomatoes in the same place in our yard. The first year I decided to plant marigolds with them, just for that pop of color. It was all about making the area nice. Now what I noticed is that nothing ever touched my tomato plants. Not once did I find a leaf that was chewed on even in the slightest. And it’s not that the bunnies just went away, trust me they aren’t hard to find around my house.

When last year began I decided that I better plant marigolds again. I didn’t want to risk not planting them and having the rabbits attack what I just planted. And you can bet that I won’t take my chances this year either.

Now there is some debate on whether this actually works. I have read people saying that marigolds won’t kept animal pests away from your plants. Could there be another reason, maybe? I know a thing or two about gardening but I am far from being considered a master gardener. But in my experience they have never touched any plants I planted next to the marigolds and this is why I will continue to practice this. It’s worth a try if you have are having trouble with rabbits. At the least you will have some pretty flowers.

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Right now here in Saline, Michigan it is 64 degrees on March 7th. I looked earlier at the ten day forecast and it appears early spring weather has arrived. So I am planning to head to the store in a little bit to get some soil to plant some butterhead lettuce into containers. The variety I bought is called Garden Babies. It is from Renee’s Garden. This particularly lettuce was labeled as container lettuce. I am growing it in containers for a few reasons:

1) I don’t have to wait for the soil to warm up, so I am using brand new soil just bought in the store.
2) Lettuce is so easy to grow in containers
3) I can move the pot around as needed. Like if we are expected as really hot day, I can easily move the plant to shade.

When to Plant
In a container or the ground as soon as the soil can be worked: Early spring or late winter if mild like this year.

How Many Plants Per Pot
If you are growing this lettuce in a container you can do 5-7 plants in 12 to 15 inch container. You will need to thin your plants out so they still need some room to go, but you can get a lot of plants out of one container. When you do thin, do so when the plants are around 3 inches tall. Don’t throw them aside, use what you thin to be a part of your first salad of the season!

Expected Harvest
The range for this harvest is wide from 53-73 days, depending on how big the heads are. I should be harvesting the heads sometime between mid-May and mid-June with what I thin coming earlier.

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Introduction Nothing is better from the garden than fresh peas. It’s that time of year again to begin to start planning for the upcoming garden season here in southeast Michigan. This year I am going to try growing Oregon Giant Snow Peas. I grew Dwarf Grey Sugar Snow Peas last year, and while they produced pretty pink flowers, the snow peas themselves weren’t all that great. When it come to growing vegetables, I want something that is going to taste good, first and foremost. I have heard of Oregon Giant Snow Peas before, so I thought I would give them a try.

When to Plant
Planting peas on St. Patrick’s Day is encouraged by some garden experts. Peas like growing in cool weather, but you soil has to still be workable and warm enough for the peas to germinate. It has been a ridiculously mild winter here, so I am shooting for the St. Patty’s start date this time around. The latest I would plant them in my area would be mid-April. You can also plant them in the end of summer for a fall harvest, but I have found that they never do as well as in the spring time.

Should I Soak the Seeds Before Planting
This is a hotly debated issue. Some people soak, some don’t. The point of soaking would be to help the seeds germinate faster. The last thing you want is to plant some seeds and have them just rot in the ground. If you are concerned your soil might not be as warm as you would like it, then go right ahead and soak, but only for 12-24 hours.

Do I Need a Trellis for These Peas?
The pea pod of this variety are giant, not the plants. They grow to about 2-3 feet tall. So while you could go without giving them any support, I would still give them some. I think the plants do better when supported and they are also easier to harvest.

Can I Start the Seeds Indoors?
I don’t think it’s really necessarily. Plants can be difficult to start indoors. If you don’t do it just right they become leggy. I would just directly sow them into the ground.

Expected Harvest
I am aiming to plant my peas on March 17th. The upcoming forecast calls for several days where the temps don’t even go below freezing, so I am thinking I can plant early this year. It’s a 70 day harvest period. So right around the start of June I should be harvesting my first peas.

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I like to grow different colored vegetables in my garden. It brings variety and excitement to the space. So along with some traditional green colored beans, I am also growing some purple beans – Velour French Filet beans. The purple color however will disappear when cooked, but they will look pretty in pictures next to my green ones. These beans can be picked when they are really thin, that is the beauty of the haricot vert (French for thin bean).

Pole or Bush
These are bush beans, so they do not need any support to grow. Just plant them in the grow and wait for your beans to come up, usually in 7-10 days. Mine took about a week to come up.

When to Plant
Beans can be planted after the risk for frost is over. You can keep planting them all the way into mid-summer. As long as the harvest happens before the first fall frost, you are safe.

Expected Harvest
I planted my beans after my spinach and lettuce turned bitter. The date was Sunday, June 12th. These beans take 51 days, so I should be harvesting right around the beginning of August.

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In the gardening world you have to have the attitude of if you don’t succeed try again. Last year, the animals keep me from enjoying any French filet beans. This year I have changed my strategy and the seeds were planted in an area where animals are rarely an issue. I choose to try these types of beans for two reasons: first they are thin, so they are not too beany, and second they are expensive to buy in the grocery store. I pick out 3 different kinds of haricot verts to grow this year, all a different color. The first one I will discuss is the Tavera. They are a traditional green color.

Pole or Bush
These are bush beans, so they do not need any support to grow. Just plant them in the grow and wait for your beans to come up, usually in 7-10 days. Mine took about a week to come up.

When to Plant
Beans can be planted after the risk for frost is over. You can keep planting them all the way into mid-summer. As long as the harvest happens before the first fall frost, you are safe.

Expected Harvest
I planted my beans after my spinach and lettuce turned bitter. The date was Sunday, June 12th. These beans take 54 days, so I should be harvesting right around the beginning of August.

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I'm Eric. I live in Ann Arbor, MI with my wife, 3 kids, and a flock of ducks. I love grocery shopping, trying new fruits, farmer's market, and traveling.
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