Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Too much food abundance?

Your garden is growing successfully. You have an over abundance of food. You are being swamped with all the produce that your garden is producing. How do you manage the excess? Do you have 10 bushels of homegrown tomatoes that you will not be able to use? Would you community be interested in starting a local canning group?

In an article published by American Profile, since 1942 people have been bringing their produce into Keezletown Community Cannery in Keezletown, Virginia. People bring beans, beets, peaches, pears, cucumbers and even chickens to the canning kitchen. As a team, these people work to peel, chop and mince among friends and fellow gardeners.

Community canning kitchens started in the 1940's during the time Americans were doing Victory gardens in the food-rationing days of World War II. Today there is a resurgence of community canneries. Why? People want to know where their food is coming from and know what is in the food according to Elizabeth Andress, Director of U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Canning is one option in your community. There are other options if your local church or food bank is not interested in fresh or preserved surplus harvest. Read on for a list of options:

Food banks are located all over the country. Here are some of the ways to locate a food pantry to deliver your fresh food.

Feeding America is a website dedicated to listing food banks in each state. Click on the state and there is a comprehensive listing of information about the food bank.


Ample Harvest is an on-line organization which lists food pantries in different states across the country.

Google is helping to fund this website. www.AmpleHarvest.org

Hunger Free Colorado Campaign to end childhood hunger in Colorado. Call the hotline and they can assist with locating food pantries to food stamps.

Hotline Number: (855)855-4626


Sharing food gives others food abundance and gives life. This feeds the soul and preserves the gardener.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Growing Beans

Why grow beans? Beans are easy to grow as well as a dependable crop with lots of variety. There are snap beans, dry soup beans, scarlet runner beans, lima beans, asparagus beans and lastly tepary beans. Beans are rich in protein.

To have a successful bean crop, you need to prepare the soil first. Beans need a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. This is slightly acidic. So to get your soil to that pH mix in organic matter with lots of leaf material that is slightly acidic.

The next step to being successful with growing beans is to plant the seeds after the last frost date when the soil warms up to 60 or 70 Fahrenheit which is great for their germination. You will get the best results by making sure your soil is fertile by mixing in one inch of mature compost. With the faster maturing snap bean varieties, you can plant every three weeks through the middle of summer to assure a good production through the season. You can plant successive crops with all vegetables to extend the crops through the season. However, one planting may be all you need.

When planting the seeds one inch deep two to four inches apart. If you are planting bush beans space the seed four inches apart and then with pole beans space those seed six inches apart. When planting the seed in rows, space the rows apart 12 to 14 inches. When you plant the seed you can inoculate the seed with nitrogen-fixing bacteria or throw some soil from last year’s bean patch in with this year. Bush beans can be used as a cover crop and turned under.

Bush bean varieties require no staking. Some varieties for growing in our area are Blue Lake 274, Bush Kentucky Wonder and Derby. Blue Lake 274 is resistant to bean mosaic and takes 58 days to harvest. The pods are tender and seeds very slowly to develop. Kentucky Wonder has flattened pods and takes 57 days to harvest. Derby has excellent pods slim and tender and very prolific with 57 days to harvest. Derby is an All American Selection Winner of 1990.

Pole beans varieties that are good for this area are Blue Lake with 65 days to harvest. The pods are juicy and tender. This variety is resistant to bean mosaic virus. Kentucky Blue is an All American Selection Winner with pods that are seven inches in length. Kentucky Wonder is also 65 days to harvest with nine inch pods in clusters.

During the time the beans begin to flower it is very important to keep the beans well watered with good drainage. The real key is full sun and lots of heat but moist and dry. One word of caution about their root systems. They have shallow roots systems and they will dry out quickly. When the beans reach a length of 4 to 6 inches, this is a good time to begin harvesting. The more you pick the more the plants will produce.

Beans are a good source of carbohydrates. They are a moderate source of protein, fiber, Vitamin C and beta carotene with small amounts of calcium and trace nutrients.

Mature green beans need to be cooked or blanched before eating. It is best to wash beans under cold running water and drain before cooking. Beans retain their color and nutritional value if they are cooked whole. It is also best to freeze or can beans within a few hours after harvesting.

There are three options for preserving your green beans to enjoy long after the season. They can be frozen, dried or canned. If you chose to freeze your beans, then they must be blanched before hand to retard the enzyme activity. All vegetables contain an active enzyme that causes deterioration of plant cells. This enzyme will cause the beans to lose color, become tough and loose nutrient value.

I think eating the green beans fresh is best. Try the following recipe from Allrecipes.com to enjoy your green bean harvest:

Fresh Green Beans, Fennel and Feta Cheese


  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 1 fennel bulb, cut into thin slices
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese


  1. Fill a saucepan half full with water and bring to a boil. Add the green beans and fennel slices; cook until just beginning to become tender, about 4 minutes. Pour into a colander to drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
  2. Return the empty pan to the stove and set heat to medium. Pour in the olive oil and let it heat for a minute. Return the green beans and fennel to the pan. Season with basil, salt, and pepper; cook and stir until coated and warm. Transfer to a serving dish and toss with feta cheese.