Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Look What's Coming Out of the Ground

Excuse me while I gush over my fava beans. They are one of the first plants to emerge in the spring and they also happen to be one of the most interesting. As they grow, favas assume an architectural yet almost prehistoric looking structure. You would hardly know they were a bean. Yet these are the original beans of the Old World, the so-called broad bean. We love to smash them with peas and Romano cheese and smear them on bruschetta.

The peas are coming up. There's a long row of them in a bed where I plan to plant mostly beans this year. As they get taller, I will drive wooden stakes into the ground and tie string to give the peas something to hang on to with their little tendrils.

The leaf lettuces have all germinated, along with the radishes and all of our brassica greens: arugula, mizuna, tat soi and mustard. We are seeing the first signs of the new Swiss Chard as well as beets. Carrots take long time to germinate and we are still waiting to see the parsnips and burdock emerge.

Some weeks ago I planted seed trays with four heirloom varieties of tomatoes: Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter, Dr. Carolyn (a golden cherry tomato) and Roma. They've already been moved into larger pots and are towering over the bell peppers and eggplants. We have a few broccoli plants and kohlrabi, as well as many little parsley, cilantro, dill and chervil. They will be strategically placed in the garden so that we have a steady supply of fresh herbs. The cilantro will bolt quickly, of course. That's one herb that doesn't take very well to our hot summers here in the District of Columbia and needs to be planted repeatedly.

And for the first time we've planted onions from seeds. In the past, we always started our onions from small sets, but they never seemed to get very large. Every day lately I've been carrying the trays of onion plants outside for sun, but it's been a cool and often dreary spring this year. (Great for the spinach, another favorite that's quick to bolt in the heat.) We've seen frequent rain and wind. We should be transplanting the onions soon.

This is one of those traditional times when the garden isn't yielding much in the way of ingredients for our kitchen. But there is great hope and lots to keep an eye on. Meanwhile, we are still eating last year's pickles.


Julia said...

So exciting! I'm just starting to see little sprouts emerge, but nothing as impressive as your favas.

Amelia said...

Ooh, I'm growing Dr. Carolyns too! Couldn't resist the description in the SESE catalogue.

Joanna said...

Love the idea of a bean called mortgage lifter .... looking forward to hearing about how these all fare - LOVE broad beans, my absolute favourite. And looking forward to hearing about this year's pickles .... I made a fab cucumber pickle right at the end of the season which I still haven't blogged - but it's probably rather simple for you


Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener said...

Is this your first year growing broad beans? I was under the impression that our winters are too cold (so no good planting them in the fall) and it gets too hot too fast in the spring for them.

Because, if not, I decidedly need to add to my list of things to plant for next year. Too late for this year I expect.

Here, mache is about to bolt, following the last few days of warm temperature, but the asparagus are pushing their pink tips out of the ground. And every thing else look so good, even if still small.

Ed Bruske said...

Julia, the favas are very impressive. I would plant them as ornamentals. I should think they would do very well in your neck of the woods, since they are a cool weather bean. And what a great thing to have growing right outside the kitchen.

Amelia, the Dr. Carolyn is named for the famed tomato expert, Carolyn Male (she wrote "100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden," worth owning). This is one of the most flavorful tomatoes we have tasted and it is extremely prolific. One plant is probably enough for a family. It will be covered in small, round tomatoes and keep producing into the fall.

Joanna, as the story goes, the man who first raised this tomato did so well he was able to pay off his mortgage. We make a lot of different pickles, but I am still shopping for a simple dill (with a little sweetness) that will stay crisp after being processed and will keep in the pantry. Do tell....

Sylvie, we had a great crop of favas last year planted March 4. Indeed, the plants were looking pretty exhausted by the time the beans were fully mature. This year we planted Feb. 27 and I do think they took a bit longer to germinate. Maybe you should give them a try?