Archive for June, 2012

Double Amaranth Bolita Bean Soup

Monday, June 25th, 2012

I grew bolita beans a couple of years ago as a dried bean and had yet to cook them.  Last week I made this bolita bean soup with amaranth leaves, amaranth grain (hence double amaranth) and purslane.

Double Amaranth Bolita Bean Soup

The finished soup, ready to eat.

  • 1 cup dry bolita beans, soaked overnight
  • 3/4 cup amaranth grain
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • cumin
  • chopped hot peppers to taste
  • veggie broth
  • amaranth leaves
  • purslane leaves and upper stems

Sauté the onions, garlic and hot peppers in olive oil.  Add veggie stock.  Add beans, amaranth grain and cumin.  Bring to a boil then simmer until beans are fully cooked (about an hour).

Add the amaranth leaves and purslane, cook a few more minutes and serve.

Bolita beans are a New Mexico variety.  I got my original seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  For some reason I thought that they were a bush bean, but they turned out to be pole beans and vined over two garden beds.  I actually got two crops of these beans as quite a few pods shattered and re-seeded.

Amaranth Leaves

Amaranth Leaves

I grew two varieties of amaranth, Amaranthus spp.,  this year, one from Botanical Interests called Edible Red Leaf and another from Kitazawa Seed Company called All Red Leaf.  All Red Leaf was indeed more red than the former.

I did not harvest amaranth seeds, only the leaves.  I picked up the grain from my local food co-op.  Amaranth seeds are not a true grain and are gluten free.  The seeds are like quinoa but smaller.  They are also harder than quinoa and take longer to cook.  That’s why I put them into the soup at the same time as the beans.

Purslane in Geoff's Garden

Purlsane, one the the greens still growing as temperatures surpass 100F.

Purlsane, Portulaca oleracea, is known as verdolaga in Mexico.  I’m growing a variety from Bountiful Gardens that has a more upright stem than the kind often found as a garden weed.

Purslane may be eaten raw as well and has a slightly tart taste.  Amaranth is not as tasty raw and benefits from cooking.  Both of these greens made this soup delicious and filling.

Photo Contest Winners

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

We’re pleased to announce the winners of our Photo Contest.  We had a lot of great entries that you can see here.

First prize goes to Paul O’Day.  He wins two-hundred dollars cash.

Paul O'Day with CobraHead Long Handle

Paul O’Day with the CobraHead Long Handle. “In one week I’ve used the CobraHead to weed two planted 1000 sq ft beds, another 1000 sq ft bed that was nothing but weeds and reemerging pasture, tilled 1000 row feet of corn and beans and 20 hills of cucurbits, and converted another 1000 sq ft of pasture to garden space using a shovel to slice the sod and the CobraHead to shake out most of the dirt from the sod chunks. I like the CobraHead for the speed, ease, and versatility. After a days work I’m not tired or sore – it beats everything else!”

Second prize goes to Vicki Sappington.  She wins a CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator, Garden Padd Kneeler and Brook and Hunter Garden Fork worth a total of $89.95.

Vicki Sappingotn weeding with Blue and CobraHead

Vicki Sappington says, “Blue and I are weeding the weeds in my petunia patch with my cobra head.”

Third prize goes to Mike Avila.  He wins a CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator worth $24.95.

Mike Avila with CobraHead and Pavers

Mike Avila, who gardens in the Bay Area, says, “Resetting the paving stones outside my room door with my Cobrahead garden tool and of course pulling up the weeds that are growing in between. “

Congratulations to our winners and to all of the participants.

Photo Contest Entries

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

We received a lot of great entries for our photo contest.  Thanks to everyone who participated.  Here are all of the entries.  Click on the smaller images to see the full sized picture and caption.


Growing limes in containers

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Even in hot Austin, our winters get too cold to leave lime trees outdoors when temperatures dip, so I’m growing both Mexican lime, Citrus aurantifolia, and Kaffir lime, Citrus x hystrix, in containers.   Then I can move them indoors when necessary.  Mexican limes are also known as key limes.  Kaffir limes, or makrut, are grown primarily for their leaves, which are used to flavor Lao and other Southeast Asian dishes.

I picked up both of these plants earlier this year, and this evening, after the sun goes down, I’ll re-pot both into larger containers.

Mexican Lime waiting to be re-potted.

Mexican Lime waiting to be re-potted.

Limes need to be well drained, so I have added a couple of inches of expanded shale to the bottom of each container.

Expanded shale in bottom of container

Expanded shale in bottom of container for drainage.

At the same time, given that our temperatures have already reached the upper nineties in Austin, I have to water these almost daily.  If you are growing these in another region, check the pots before watering and don’t water until the soil is slightly dry.

The frequent watering can flush out soil nutrients, so I’m also fertilizing every two weeks.  I use a mix of seaweed and liquid fish diluted in water.  Currently, I’m using a commercial mix made by Lady Bug Brand that also includes small amounts of magnesium sulfate, ferrous sulfate and zinc sulfate.  Citrus can develop chlorosis from a lack of any of these.

Kaffir lime leaf

Kaffir lime leaf

Key limes, almost ready to harvest.

Key limes, almost ready to harvest.

Both of these limes will be transplanted to an even larger container in a year or two.  After that, I may need to occasionally root prune them to keep them happy in a container of a manageable size.  I’ve already been enjoying my summertime treat: sparkling water with a twist of lime.

Roasted Asparagus Salsa

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Asparagus Salsa

1 ½ – 2 cups roasted asparagus, chopped (see roasted asparagus recipe here)

2 T. fresh lime juice

¼ tsp. cumin

2 T. minced green onion

2 T. medium salsa verde or salsa of your choice

1 tsp. minced or pressed garlic

Salt & pepper to taste

Puree asparagus, lime juice and cumin in a food processor.  Stir in remaining ingredients and serve with tortilla chips or use as a sandwich spread.

This is my version of an Asparagus Guacamole recipe put out by the Fairshare CSA Coalition  as a teaser to buy their cookbook, From Asparagus to Zucchini.  We picked up the recipe at a CSA information table at Whole Foods Madison a few weeks ago.  I have their original cookbook from 1996 but it doesn’t have this recipe.

I tried the recipe a couple of times.  The first time I followed the recipe exactly.  I thought it was good but a little too soupy. I had used regular cooked and drained asparagus.  After working on some adjustments to the recipe I decided that roasting the asparagus removed more of the water and concentrated the flavor.  I also eliminated the yogurt that was in the original recipe and cut back on the cumin.

Guacamole implies avocado but this green salsa recipe can fool you.

Klehm Arboretum Garden Fair

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Looking Out From Our Tent at Klehm Arboretum

This weekend Judy and I were vendors at the Klehm Arboretum Garden Fair.   This was our seventh year at the event now in it’s 19th year.  Rockford is just under 70 miles from home.  If you don’t know Rockford, it’s the second biggest population area in Illinois outside the Chicago metro area.  Rockford used to be an industrial dynamo, but like a lot of Midwestern towns, heavy manufacturing went bust, and for a while Rockford suffered some very hard times.  It’s coming back though, with a vibrant historical downtown area and lots of attractions for visitors including the Klehm Arboretum.

Our Busy Little Tent

A big advantage to this show is that we really have some room to spread out.  We are outside, which can be both good and bad.  This year it was good with a most perfect weekend, but in the past we’ve experienced some really bad thunderstorms or blistering heat.  Everyone was upbeat this year just because the weather was so nice.

Lush Trees and Grasses

The setting at Klehm is beautiful.

Looking at the Vendors

The show went well for us.  We have lots of repeat customers here and what I found particularly gratifying was the interest in vegetable gardening by older folks who had never planted a vegetable garden before or were getting back to it after a long layoff and the young couples who were new but very serious vegetable gardeners.  Gardening is the future and that makes me very happy.