The long and the short of it

One of the best results we are currently having in the garden is with our bean crop – well at least some of it. Two of the five varieties I planted in November have really taken off, those are the Gourmet Delight bush beans

Gourmet Delight bush beans, don't even reach to my knees, but are producing quite a lot of pods.
Gourmet Delight bush beans, don’t even reach to my knees, but are producing quite a lot of pods.

and the Lazy Housewife climbing beans.

Lazy Housewif climbing beans, needed an extension to their trellis and are still heading skyward.
Lazy Housewife climbing beans, needed an extension to their trellis and are still heading skyward.

The Scarlet Emperor climbing beans are definitely a case of the ’emperors new clothes’ – lots of lovely flowers, but no pod set due to the hot weather. A few of our Edamame (soy beans) that grew are producing a meagre handful of pods, but the bulk have been choked by weeds, no ones’s fault but our own! The Adzuki beans, at least those that have survived random raids by our chooks, are sitting pretty much as they were when they were planted out. There are no signs of them even growing, let alone producing flowers or pods.

But I’m going to dwell on the positive. The Gourmet Delight bush beans are a new variety to Chez Fork. The plants don’t even reach up to my knees, yet under the deep green leaves are clusters of succulent pods. The plants are so compact that I didn’t even register that they had pods on them. The pods are of moderate size and are juicy all the way through. I presume these are the characteristics that have earned this variety its name.

A handful of Gourmet Delight pods.
A handful of Gourmet Delight pods.

They also seemed to cope quite well with our recent week of 40 degree C temperatures. Clearly this variety would be a great choice for a small garden given their high yield. We will certainly be growing them again.

By comparison our Lazy Housewife climbing beans seem to have been crossed with Jack’s beanstalk. They are already well over head height and new tendrils continue to sprout upwards. The pods are much larger and coarser than the Gourmet Delights, but are still a good eating bean. My strategy for these is not to be too lazy myself and pick them at a slightly smaller size than their full pod growth. This way I’ll have a much juicier pod for cooking.

Lazy Housewife climbing beans. Pick the pods before they reach full size for a tastier bean.
Lazy Housewife climbing beans. Pick the pods before they reach full size for a tastier bean.

While it might seem contradictory the Lazy Housewife bean would also be good in a small garden. They do not make much sideways growth. Where you have a narrow bed, say against a wall or fence, which got good sun they could do well. Ours are planted in a bed no more than 30 cm (12 inches) wide.

All five types of beans were raised from seed, each planted individually in a toilet roll. They were planted out, still in their rolls, directly into the garden beds when they were between 10-15 cms tall. The benefit of this approach is that the plants are fairly well established and seem to better withstand the onslaught of snails and slaters, which have previously demolished all our direct sown beans as my notes from 6 January 2008 glumly report, “Back from Newcastle – all beans destroyed by slaters.”

I’m not sure why we are having problems with the adzuki beans, because this is the first year we have tried them. As for the Edamame it may be that I planted them too late in the season. Looking back over notes from previous years I got the Edamame into the ground in late October, compared to this year when I planted the seeds out nearly a month later in mid-November.

The Red Emperor and all the other varieties of scarlet runner bean we have tried over the years tell the same story. They need Canberra’s cold winter to germinate well, but our hot summers delay pod production until late summer or early autumn. We only ever seem to get a handful of pods. I wonder why I persist in growing them? On the plus side their flowers do make an attractive show in the garden and they are fixing nitrogen into the garden beds but I suspect I just like seeing those amazing beans!

The crazy coloured scarlet runner beans.
The crazy coloured scarlet runner beans.

Sitting Around

The drive up to Newcastle and back over the weekend certainly seems to have taken it out of me. I managed a small sortie out this morning to see that my edamame (Japanese soybeans) are ticking along quite well. But I can’t say the same for my Tongue of Fire beans – they keep getting eaten and not by me! Even plants that are well over 15cms in height are still being chewed by oportunistic snails and slugs – I console myself that should I ever get to eat some that they at least must taste good.

My strawberries are going very well this year. I picked a big handful this morning, having picked an equal number three days ago. Which reminded me that I still had bags of frozen fruit from last summer. I’ve taken care of that and now have several jars of strawberry jam.


Thankfully it is one of the quickest jams to cook – per usual a Sally Wise recipe – so I managed it before my enthusiasm for work ran out – which it did once I saw the state of the back garden!


Oh my god! The grass is long, the sorrel (in the front needs hacking back), the purple sprouting brocoli (yellow flowers) along with the curly kale needs ripping out while the broad beans and the snow peas are collapsing under the weight of growth (and not much else where the snow peas are concerned!). Not to mention the tomatoes that need planting, which Friend M has kindly given us as there has been virtually no progress with our own. Now why didn’t I buy those tomato plants which were already fruiting that I saw at the Newcastle City Farmers Markets yesterday?

Anyway I’m now feeling so much better because I’ve decided it can all wait for another day.

Turning Japanese

We had our first snack of edamame this week. It was eaten on a suitably hot and muggy evening with the expected glass or three of chilled sake -Kanpai! The edamame plants – like lots of other things – seem to have taken a halt to growing during our recent heatwave. While there are plenty of pods on the plants the beans inside are small and underdeveloped. I hope with some cooler weather, more water and a feed of Charlie Carp that we’ll be harvesting more soon. BTW you only eat the bean inside the pod – the pods are ‘hairy’ and rather unpalatable.

Keeping on this theme TB outdid himself with a Japanese style meal. Wilted greens with tofu, stir-fried mushrooms, soba noodles with dipping sauce (in the plastic ‘laquer’ cup) and zucchini with dengaku. The dengaku is a sweetened miso paste which is used as the topping to grilled vegetables or fish.


Edamame or Jiro and the magic bean plant

It never ceases to amaze me how fast some plants grow. I looked at my Edamame plants (pronounced ed-ah-mah-meh – Japanese soy beans) this morning and realised that what I thought were flower buds are actually pods! These plants have been in their current bed for exactly one month. They were planted on the 24th of October and I transplanted the seedlings into their bed on 8 November. The flowers are so small that we didn’t even notice them.

Edamame are a favourite Japanese snack. These are the type of snack eaten when stopping for a drink on the way home from work. The whole pods are cooked quickly in a dashi stock (made from kelp and shaved tuna) and then served whole. You eat the beans by popping each one out of the whole pod directly into your mouth – something that appeals to the kid in all of us.

You have been able to buy the frozen pods in Canberra from local Asian grocers like The Hub for quite some time. When Bishlet told me they had found the seeds available through Diggers ( – sold as Organic Soy Bean (Beer Snack) – we took up the offer to get some as well and grow our own fresh beans. One thing that both Bishlet and I have found is that the seeds that were planted directly into the garden bed (I planted 4 at the same time as those started in pots) have not grown anywhere near as well as those raised in a pot. Of those planted directly into the bed one failed to germinate and a second got eaten at an early stage. The transplanted seedlings are now 30 cms+ tall and by contrast the ones raised in the bed are only about 10cms tall.

I am wondering however just how big they will grow. I came across a photo from the early summer 2009 edition of Yasaibatake (translated ‘Vegetable Garden’ magazine) – you can’t keep keen gardeners down even in a foreign language – which shows a man up to his waist in edamame. We purchased this magazine while travelling in Japan earlier this year. I ask you could how could you resist a magazine with the myriad ads for smart-casually dressed, not to mention unfailingly smiling people, using motorised cultivators while their admiring family and friends look on. There are also very charming illustrations throughout the magazine such as this one for companion planting tomatoes and leeks. At the speed I can translate it will take me the better part of the year just to be able to read one of the recipes in the magazine! If nothing else I’ve obeyed my sensei [teacher] and have certainly done my daily Japanese practice today!