Thursday, June 7, 2007

Maybe I Don't Know Beans

This year, when I ordered seed from a Seed Catalog, I went Bean crazy. I think I was craving green beans. I ordered Roma beans, bush beans, pole beans, runner beans, and yellow beans. Later I got a catalog for heirlooms and lusted over long beans- next year.

I also ordered snap peas and dug out my old, saved Fava beans. Snap peas, snow peas and Fava beans like cooler climates, but the peas can get mildew if it is damp. I planted about 100 snap peas. In an other area I planted snow peas. And I planted a bed of Fava beans. The snow peas did very well when planted in February, but started getting mildew in late March. By late April, they were done and gone to compost. I got a couple of pounds of snow peas before they died. The snap peas got planted a bit later, grew like crazy, and started getting mildew in early April. You just can't get away from the wet, cold fog here. Still, I was able to harvest about 8 pounds (no pods) of fresh peas for the freezer. I actually do better with snow peas in the fall when it is dryer. I may try that with snap peas, too.
Fava don't seem to be bothered by the fog or cool dampness. Bring it on. They are now in full production. So, what can you do with a Fava Bean, especially when you have and 8 ft by 4 ft bed full. Well, this brings us to an interesting part of the garden experience. Even though it looks like a lot of beans, it isn't very much. Most of the Fava bean is compost. I only like the seed part. I don't eat the pod, although some say you can eat the young ones, if you are desperate. Each day or two, I can go out and collect a bunch of Fava beans, shell them, and end up with a cup of fresh beans. And a mountain of pods. Since there is only the two of us often for dinner, I will just boil them for about 3 minutes and serve with salt and butter. But if there are more than the two of us, I have to get creative. Make rice and toss in the beans in the last 5 minutes of cooking, like peas. Butter, salt, rice and beans. Side dish. Add them to Chicken curry, like peas. Peas, carrots and Fava. Onions, Artichoke hearts, fennel, peas and Fava with salt and butter. Ok, I'm done. And the Fava are about done, too. Very short season, those Fava. And now I have a mountain of green manure. What to do with all that green stuff.

Beans and peas are nitrogen fixers. Their roots make little nodules of nitrogen rich tissue. Rip out the plant and you throw away the nutrient. Cut off the plant and dig in the roots and plant new stuff. Put the upper plant in the compost bin or worm bin.(I have both.) In about 6 to 18 months, dump the composted material back into the bed and stir. Or, plant squash right in the aging compost. I actually have a squash plant growing in my compost. I think it is a pumpkin. It is growing out of an air hole in the side of the compost bin. I keep it watered and watch with curiosity.

More Fava bean information: Fava beans make a chemical that is often called L'dopa. It is used for people with Parkinson's and some other brain problems. It is present in very small amounts but might react with some medications. Also, there is a syndrome called Favism- like an allergy that can kill you. Some people cannot eat Fava beans. If you are not sure, ask your Dr. or eat a small bean and see if you get sick. Some recipes suggest that you cook and peal the skin off the Fava bean. The skin is about half of the bean. What is left looks like a green pea (size and color). I eat the skin. It turns pale green when cooked and the inner pea is bright green. Very pretty combination.

For my climate, Fava bean is a winner in the cool weather bean/pea contest. Peas suffer from mildew and Fava ignores it. Fava is just about the same as a pea in use and taste. I could have planted it about a month earlier, too.

1 comment:

Rebsie Fairholm said...

Hi Fluffy ... just thought I'd drop you a note to say I'm enjoying reading your garden thoughts even though I'm literally half a world away and my climate is completely different (I'm in the UK). It's fascinating to see how you grow many of the same plants as me but have a whole different set of issues to think about! I've been in a kind of bean and pea frenzy this year and bought way too many, and now I'm having to harvest my potatoes early so that I can cram in a few more beans and peas into what's left of the season.