Friday, July 29, 2011

In the Garden

It's Friday so we're having another garden party, hosted by Tiffany at No Ordinary Homestead.

Here's one corner of the garden; the picture was taken this morning.

NE corner of the plot
Let's see... there are beans on the trellises, rattlesnakes to the left, struggling Chinese Yard Long beans in the foreground (they don't like much water... oops). In the rows behind the beans, right to left and parallel to the rattlesnake green beans, are basil and drought tolerant Sioux tomatoes in one row and okra in the next. Just fyi, the poles you see are about 6'6" tall.

Yep, those are Chinese long beans ...which reminds me of small town moment we had recently. We were sitting at the bar for a wine tasting event and started chatting with the older woman next to us. After a while I just had to ask, "Do you have a garden this year?" The answer was no, but she had had them in the past and a lot of her friends gardened and were having a hard year, too; what had we planted? In my mind's eye I started in the patio pots and went on to the main garden, naming things from my mental image..."Japanese eggplant, tomatillos, basil, Chinese long beans, shishito peppers..." She interrupted me, "No wonder you're having a hard time, those aren't American plants! This is Smallish Small City, not some foreign country." I assured her that we also had all-American vegetables like okra and black-eyed peas (tee hee*) and changed the subject. When I run into her again I'll have to let her know that the international garden is doing well and the 'un-American' plants just took a little time to assimilate...I mean acclimatize.

Looking a little more closely at what's in the garden, there are still lots of blossoms...

Chinese long bean blossom

But they are slow to produce.

rattlesnake green beans
tangle of rattlesnake green bean vines

Happily, there's plenty of Swiss chard this year. I've found chard to be one of the most versatile culinary greens there is, it's easy to grow and it over-winters in our region.
prolific, tasty, good-for-you chard

chard thinnings went on top of a stir-fry in early June
Yum! It's even a World's Healthiest Food. The really tender small leaves can be eaten raw (recently M's lunch box held grilled oryx sandwiches with fresh chard and homemade aioli on hard rolls). Now that I think about it we don't use any recipes for chard but it is consumed in lots of ways... chopped and sauteed in eggs, quesadillas, with garlic and lemon juice, with sausage and pasta; baked with mushrooms, cheese and bread crumbs; in soups & stews.... If you're not familiar with this green buy some at your local farmers market or grocery store and use your Google-fu to find a recipe that appeals to you. If you aren't growing it already, I bet you'll make space for it in next year's garden.

*That's right, Intrepid Reader, okra and black-eyed peas have African origins but she didn't know that.


  1. I think we might actually have chard growing in our garden behind the barn but I was never really sure what it was. It comes back every winter and I thought it might be a really tough weed. Perhaps I might have to research it a bit more and see if it really is chard -- but it definitely looks the same.

    Never knew okra and black-eyed peas were African either. :)

    Thanks for linking up!

  2. Cool! If not chard, it might be rhubarb; either way it's a great find.

    American, African, Asian... at some point we adopt it, it becomes part of our foodways and who's to say, really ...

  3. I had forgotten how beautiful long bean blossoms are. It's been years since I've grown them. I enjoyed the tour.


  4. Hey Brett, thanks for coming by. I still think the most gorgeous blossom in the garden are the okra, but getting a good picture seems to be elusive for me. I'll pop over to to see if you have a recipe or two for the long beans.

  5. Funny you should mention it, the dressing for the cucumbers n my recent post is also great on long beans blanched, cut in 2-inch pieces--"liang ban chang dou."