Okra and Butterbeans – Harvest Now, Enjoy Later by Patty G. Leander

okra-butterbean-heart

Butterbean and okra love

Okra and butterbeans are like peanut butter and chocolate – two great tastes that taste great together…and apart! You may be harvesting them now as the warm weather wanes or perhaps you will consider a space for them in your garden next year. Each vegetable stands on its own delicious qualities, but aside from taste there are several reasons that okra and butterbeans are two of my favorite vegetable crops.

butterbeans-1

Butterbeans love the heat and are relatively pest free.

For starters, they are two of the easiest vegetables to grow in Texas and the South. They like heat, they like sun, they are not prone to disease and unless you have nematode-infested soil they are not bothered by many insect pests.  And unless you grow your own butter beans you’ll be hard pressed to find them fresh, even at the farmer’s market (at least where I live).

canned-okra

Okra does so well in the Texas heat and it is easy to preserve in a variety of ways

They are prolific producers, providing plenty of pods for eating fresh in season as well as preserving for later enjoyment. When I am blessed with a bountiful harvest of both butter beans and okra I like to cook them up in a tasty soup or stew, freeze in smaller portions and then pull it out on a cold night. That home-grown taste of summer warms me up in the middle of winter and reminds me why I love vegetable gardening.

Okra and butterbeans are easy to grow and they taste great when combined together into a hearty soup or stew.

Okra and butterbeans are easy to grow and they taste great when combined together into a hearty soup or stew.

Because they are self-pollinated, okra and butter beans are super easy for beginning seed savers. Be sure you are growing open pollinated varieties (as opposed to hybrid varieties) and allow some of the okra and bean pods to mature and dry before harvesting. For okra I usually tag 2 or 3 pods per plant that I am going to allow to mature for seed and then I can harvest all the rest for fresh eating or preserving. Once the okra pods have dried twist or crack open and remove the seeds.

If you want to keep seeds of okra be sure and plant only a single variety.

If you want to keep seeds of okra be sure and plant only a single variety.

One okra pod has lots of seeds so save according to your needs. Try to pick the healthiest looking pods from the healthiest plants and avoid pods that are diseased or deformed. For butter beans set aside enough dried seed for planting in your garden the next year plus a few more for giving away if you are so inclined. If you are serious about maintaining the purity of a particular variety like I am with ‘Stewart’s Zeebest’ okra, (http://masterofhort.com/2015/05/stewarts-zeebest-okra-by-patty-g-leander/) only plant that single variety to avoid any accidental cross-pollination.

Here is one of my favorite recipes for using okra and butter beans at the end of the season. It is a very forgiving recipe so feel free to tweak it, substitute sauage for ham, leave the meat out completely, add more vegetables or whatever makes it work for you. I usually double the recipe, freeze in single serving or dinner-sized batches and pull out to enjoy in the cold of winter.

okra-butterbean-stew

Okra Stew

If you don’t have fresh butter beans you can usually find them in the frozen food section, most likely labeled as limas beans or baby limas.

 

1 onion, chopped

1 cup chopped ham

1 lb fresh, sliced okra

2 cups fresh butter beans

1-2 tablespoons oil

2 cups chopped cooked chicken

16 oz can puréed tomatoes

1-2cups fresh or frozen corn

2 cups chicken broth

½ tsp each salt, pepper, thyme

2-3 cups spinach or other available greens, chopped (optional)

 

Heat oil in a large pot and sauté onion, ham, okra and butter beans for 6-8 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer 30-45 minutes. Serve over rice or cooked grains, if desired.  Yield: 2 qts

 

Late Season Legumes and a Pomegranate Tip by Patty Leander

kwintus-trellis

Kwintus’ pole beans

The transition to cool season vegetables is well underway and my garden has gone from an embarrassing end-of-summer jumble to a reenergized and productive backyard vegetable patch. It seemed like it would never come but that hint of cool weather finally arrived and nighttime temperatures have begun their gradual decline. Even though the thermometer may still hit the 90° mark it takes most of the day to get there and it doesn’t stay there for long. That spells R-E-L-I-E-F for plants.

savoy-cabbage-growing

Alcosa’ savoy cabbage and ‘Green Fingers’ cucumber

Thanks to some timely rains, cooling shade cover and a protective layer of mulch, the beans, squash and cucumbers I planted in late August are now producing and the broccoli, cauliflower, collards, cabbage and mustard are growing strong.

cow-peas-leaf-footed-bugs

The Southern peas yielded several yummy meals before being invaded by leaf-footed bugs.

Southern peas that were planted in April – black-eyed peas, crowder peas and purple hulls – produced like champs all summer long but by October those *#!@ leaf-footed bugs were multiplying like crazy so I decided at this point in the season it was better to remove the plants than try to battle the stinkbugs. I harvested what I could; plenty of fresh pods for shelling and immediate enjoyment and even more dry pods that will be shelled and set aside for winter meals (including New Year’s Day).  Freezing fresh cowpeas couldn’t be any simpler: spread the shelled peas in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze till solid, then pour them into a plastic freezer bag, no blanching required.

worchester-red-beans

Worchester Indian Red’ limas grow into vigorous, productive vines.

Butter beans are coming at me high and low – seems like I can harvest just as many on my hands and knees as I can on a ladder. They have produced off and on all summer and put on a new flush of growth and blooms in response to August rains that were accompanied by an ever-so-slight drop in temperature. I am growing three excellent pole varieties, ‘Sieva’, ‘Violet’s Multicolor Butterbean’ and ‘Worchester Indian Red’.  Their vigorous vines will climb whatever they come in contact with; the Worchesters have engulfed a 10 foot sunflower growing next to the trellis and the Sievas have found their way up into the pomegranate tree. Is this what they mean by companion planting?!

dried-butter-bean-pods

Dried pods ready for shelling – if they don’t shatter first.

If the dried pods are left too long on the vine they will sometimes split open and the seeds will fall to the ground, sprouting up wherever they land. I harvest dried pods every couple of days and keep them in a bowl on my kitchen counter; every once in awhile, without warning, a random pod shatters and the dried beans fly out of the bowl with an explosive POP, landing on the floor or flying into the sink. Makes me jump every time. When I have a full bowl I take them to my mom so she can shell them.

kwintus-flat-beans

Kwintus flat beans are large and perfect for roasting!

I planted ‘Kwintus’ pole beans in late August and harvested my first pods about 50 days later. They are an early, flat, Romano-type bean, delicious and productive. They are also known as ‘Early Riser’ and their fast growth makes them great for the fall or spring season. If you’d like to give them a try next year order seeds online from Kitazawa Seeds (www.kitazawseed.com) or Turtle Tree Seeds (www.turtletreeseed.org). And be sure to try them in the following lip-smacking recipe.

Roasted Flat Beans

These roasted beans melt in your mouth. I came across this recipe in a Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) publication a few years ago. The ingredients and the technique intrigued me and I had a bounty of beans at the time so I tried it and have been enjoying these beans ever since. The recipe was originally shared by Sheila and Matt Neal of Neal’s Deli in Carrboro, North Carolina. They recommend it as an economical side dish to feed a crowd and they say it tastes even better if made a day ahead. I can attest to that!

2 ½ lbs flat beans, rinsed and stemmed

½ cup peeled and thinly sliced garlic

2 cups diced yellow onion

2 medium-sized tomatoes, grated*

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp black pepper, coarsely ground

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

1 tbsp kosher salt

3 bay leaves

1 cup water

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Heat oven to 350°. Gently and thoroughly combine the above ingredients in a roasting pan. Place parchment paper directly onto the beans. Cover with a tight-fitting lid or foil. Cook until the beans are tender, stirring well every 15 minutes for about an hour and 15 minutes.

*Grating tomatoes is an easy way to “peel” them. Cut the tomato in half and remove seeds with your fingers. Place the cut side down on the coarse holes of a box grater. Run the tomato back and forth until all the flesh is grated. Discard the skin.

A POMEGRANATE TIP

removing-pomegranate-seeds

Hold a pomegranate half, seed side down, over a bowl and whack it several times to remove seeds

Pomegranate season is upon us and if you’ve been to the grocery store lately you’ve undoubtedly noticed pomegranates prominently displayed in the produce section. Or perhaps you are lucky enough to have your own tree. But the mysterious and exotic nature of the pomegranate can be a bit confounding when it’s time to liberate those seeds. I use to cut a pomegranate in half or quarters and turn them inside out into a bowl of water to release the seeds but ever since I saw this tip on the internet I’ve been paddling my pomegranates – it’s so easy!

The following video shows a street vendor in Bangkok who has an even better way; he removes the top and then scores the outside of the pomegranate along the white membranes. When he pulls it apart the membrane is loose and comes right out, then he proceeds – with lightening speed – to whack the seeds out of each section (jump ahead to 1:20 to go straight to his demo):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUsfw-KppCU

Those juicy little seeds (actually called arils) are a perfect pop of color and flavor to brighten leafy salads, rice or grain pilafs, oatmeal, yogurt, orange or grapefruit segments, cocktails or even sprinkled atop your favorite guacamole. I eat the entire seed. Do you?

 

I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Week 36 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

I am really looking forward to this weekend.  Work has been very stressful so I really need three days of intensive garden therapy.  While many of you will be beaching, boating or barbecuing, I will be spending all of my Labor Day Weekend laboring.  I am going to spend all three days catching up on chores and planting lots and lots of transplants.

cabbage-head

This is a great weekend to plant cabbage and other cole crops from transplants.

Vegetables

  • Transplant! – I love the vegetables that come from the fall garden best of all-and this is the weekend to plant the ones I love. This weekend I will be planting broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts from transplant.  It is also a great time to plant shallots.  Plant transplants in well-draining soil that has been thoroughly worked with compost.    Keep soil moist for the first couple of weeks to ensure good rooting.  No fertilize is needed at transplant time.
  • Plant from seed- We are running out of time to plant a lot of fall crops from seed. My first freeze usually comes around November 16.  Because of this it is too late to plant anything that takes more 70 days to mature. You can still plant most beans (green, lima, runner, wax).  You should still have time to get a cucumber harvest from seed if you plant now. Some yellow squash will produce in under 70 days.  However use transplants at this late date to ensure a harvest.
  • Plant herbs from transplants – Herbs do great in the cooler fall temperatures. Plant basil, chives, cilantro and dill.  Use that dill to make fresh pickles with cucumbers that you will plant this weekend.
mexican-mint-marigold

Mexican mint marigold is an anise flavored herb that blooms prolifically in the fall

Ornamentals

  • Prune roses – If you have not yet pruned your roses, do it this weekend. There are different types of roses and they all have different pruning requirements.  Check out this great article from Heirloom Roses about how to properly prune your roses this fall.  http://www.heirloomroses.com/care/pruning
  • Redo Potted Plants – Fall potted plants require less water and their foliage stays bright the entire season. While marigolds and chrysanthemums are perennial fall favorites consider adding some clumping grasses or large scale cactus to your arrangements.  They will add color, texture and drama to all of your creations.

 

cactus-potted-plant

Fall is the best time of the year for potted plants in Texas. Spice up your arrangements by mixing grasses or cactus with the standard annuals

Trees and Lawns

  • Plant bluebonnets and other wildflowers – To over seed wildflowers, mow the lawn as close as possible then spread your seed. Once the seed is down walk around on them.  Wildflowers need to come in contact with the soil to get the best germination
  • Control fire ants organically – Fire ants love okra and broccoli. If you are like me you do not like to use chemicals anywhere near the vegetable garden.  Control fire ants organically by combining compost tea, molasses and orange oil.
plant-happiness

Plant Texas wildflowers in September

 

I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Week 33 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden

As I write this I am sitting on an incredibly comfortable 75 degree back porch in Oklahoma City.  Sally and I came north to spend a little time with our grandson (and his parents).  Since this weekend is the official kick off of the Fall garden season I will be driving back on Saturday so I can begin planting my garden in the 100+ temperatures that we are expecting this weekend.

Roger and I having a little fun while mom and Nana do a little shopping

Roger and I having a little fun while mom and Nana do a little shopping

Vegetables

  • Plant the following from seed – While it is still too hot for transplants, there are many things you can plant this weekend from seed. Below is what I will be planting (don’t forget to check our planting calendar to get a complete list of what you can plant from seed this weekend):
    • Green Beans
    • Black eyed peas
    • Beets
    • Carrots
    • Kale
    • Collards
    • Mustard Greens
    • Squash (both summer and winter varieties)
    • Chard
    • Lima Beans
  • Prepare beds for transplants – By September 1 you can plant most transplants. Get your beds ready now by removing all weeds, rebuilding the row or beds and then applying a deep layer of compost.  Once this is done mulch heavily and begin watering on a regular basis
  • Plant tomato transplants ASAP – I know I said wait until September 1 to plant transplants, but tomatoes are an exception. Plant them as soon as they show up in stores.  Most tomatoes take so long to mature that you need to get them in the ground now if you want red fall tomatoes.  Baby them!  Give them a little shade cloth, lots of water and mulch heavily with finished compost.  Then feed them with liquid fertilizer.  Fall tomatoes need to establish quickly and start putting on flowers early in the fall season.
Now is the time to spend money on compost.  Everything in your Fall garden will benefit from the addition of compost

Now is the time to spend money on compost. Everything in your Fall garden will benefit from the addition of compost

Ornamentals

  • Prepare beds for fall – Flower beds need the same work as the vegetable garden. Remove weeds now.  Fertilize heavily with finished compost and mulch.  Begin watering regularly to encourage fall blooming bulbs to sprout
  • Plant from seed – This weekend is a great time to plant more zinnias, cockscomb, marigolds and sunflowers from seed
  • Plant from transplant – While it is too hot to plant transplants in the vegetable garden, garden beds that get some shade can receive several great transplants. Some of my favorites are pentas and angelonia
  • Refresh potted plants. If summer has zapped the plants in your pots I recommend redoing them.  Throw away spent plants and soil.  Replace with a high quality planting mix that has perlite or other water holding components.  When watering in plants use a water soluble fertilizer mixed to 50% of package recommendations.  Some of my favorite fall potted plants are coleus and portulaca
coleus-potted-plant

Coleus and portulaca are some of my favorite potted plants

Trees and Lawns

  • Prepare trees and shrubs for transplant – if you have a tree or shrub that needs to be moved, now is the time to start getting ready. The larger the tree or shrub is the more preparation it needs.  Start giving it a slow, soaking watering every third day.  This will assure the plant is full hydrated before its move
  • Continue to water trees and shrubs deeply – If your trees or shrubs are shedding leaves now there is a good chance they are suffering root stress. It has been very hot lately.  This is very hard on young trees and woody perennials.  Mulch heavily, water deeply and regularly and feed with a slow release fertilizer.

 

I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Butterbean Basics by Patty Leander

 

butterbeans-mixed

Whether green, white or speckled, butterbeans are down-home delicious. As mentioned in a previous post, freeze leftover liquid from cooking collard greens and use it to boost the flavor of butterbeans.

Tomatoes tend to get all the attention this time of year but there is another vegetable, so delicious, so easy to grow, so humble, so Southern, that it belongs in every Texan’s garden. I’m talking about butterbeans. Some of you may refer to them as lima beans – the terms can be used interchangeably – but poor lima beans suffer from an overcooked-and-underseasoned-school-cafeteria reputation that still haunts many adults, even though they haven’t touched a lima bean in decades. Butterbeans, on the other hand, elicit nothing but comforting memories of gardens, grannies, greens and cornbread. One of the more memorable comments I’ve heard about butterbeans came from AgriLife Extension Fruit Specialist Jim Kamas. At a fruit seminar a few years ago I had the occasion to ask if he enjoyed butterbeans as a child, and without hesitation he fondly recalled his childhood in Belleville and those luscious beans from his grandmother’s garden. She used to tell him that “if you were eating butterbeans, you were the luckiest boy in town”.  Such a sweet and memorable sentiment coming from a man who lives and breathes Texas peaches. Lucky indeed.

shelled-butterbeans

Fresh butterbeans are hard to come by unless you grow and shell them yourself.

There are several varieties of butterbeans to choose from and I’ve never grown one I didn’t like. Some are bush, some are pole, some are green, some are white, some are speckled but they all like warm weather and they all grow well in Texas.

butterbean-varities

Henderson, Jackson Wonder, Thorogreen, Dixie Speckled, King of the Garden, Christmas Pole, Fordhook 242

You can usually find small packets of butter beans at farm supply or garden centers. Online sources for seeds include Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (www.southernexposure.com), Willhite Seed (www.willhiteseed.com), Seed Savers Exchange (www.seedsavers.org) and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com).

Florida-Speckled-Butterbeans

‘Florida Speckled’ butterbeans engulf a chain link fence.

Because they like warm conditions it is best to plant them a couple of weeks after you plant green beans – any time this month is good. They are not particular about soil but be sure to give them full sun and regular moisture. Pole varieties are quite vigorous and will need a sturdy structure to climb. Most bush varieties are ready for picking in 60-65 days; pole varieties take a week or two longer. Butter beans, especially pole varieties, usually produce through the summer but if it is exceptionally hot and dry (and who knows what awaits us this summer!) their blooms may shut down. Keep them watered and they’ll perk up again in the fall and produce like crazy.

Dixie-Speckled-Butterbeans

Small-seeded ‘Dixie Speckled Butterpeas’ cook up tender and delicious.

If you are new to the business of butter beans, keep in mind that they must be shelled. Not really a big deal unless you plant rows and rows that all come ready at once – then you’ll have some work to do. If you have room in the garden plant a few short rows of different varieties with varying maturity rates so you’ll be able to space out the picking, the shelling and the eating. Cooking is simple, the less you do to them the better – just flavor with a little bacon fat, salt and pepper and let their subtle flavor and creamy texture shine. The fresher they are the quicker they cook, usually less than 45 minutes.

Butterbeans used to be a common side dish served at kitchen tables across the South, but like corded phones, station wagons and cassette tapes, they are at risk of becoming yet another reminder of simpler times and days gone by. Shoved aside by an industrious society fueled by quick-to-fix processed food, their destiny lies at the mercy of local farmers and vegetable gardeners willing to continue their cultivation. I hope you will help carry on their legacy by planting, eating and saving seed. Sop up the simplicity of this humble bean and enjoy a taste that is rich, down-home and satisfying, and always remember how lucky you are to be eating fresh butter beans.

King-of-the-garden-butterbeans

‘King of the Garden’ with a side of cornbread and a piece of fruit for a good-to-the-last-bite satisfying meal.

Old-Fashioned Butterbeans

The secret to a tasty pot likker is to simmer the cooking liquid with bacon drippings or ham hocks for at least 30 minutes before you add the beans. 

1 ham hock, ham bone or 1-2 tablespoons bacon drippings**

2 quarts water or chicken broth

4-6 cups shelled butterbeans

¼ cup brown sugar (optional, but a common ingredient)

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Bring water and ham hock or bacon drippings to a boil and simmer 30-40 minutes. Add the beans and simmer until tender, about 30-40 minutes, adding more water if necessary, to keep beans covered by about 1 inch. Season with salt and pepper.

** Vegetarian-minded folks can forgo the pig meat and cook beans in water or vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper then top off with a pat of butter.

Tip of the Week – Week 11 in the Zone 9 Garden

Well folks, this is THE weekend in the Zone 9 vegetable garden!  If you have already prepared your beds then this weekend looks to be a perfect time to plant the spring vegetable garden.  If you haven’t prepared your beds the weather man says that you will have perfect weather to do it this Saturday and then plant on an absolutely gorgeous Sunday.

It is time to transplant the tomato you have been babying for the last three months.  Photo by Bruce Leander

It is time to transplant the tomatoes you have been babying for the last three months. Photo by Bruce Leander

Vegetables

March 15 is the recommended planting date for most of the vegetables that we think of as “spring” crops.  This weekend is the perfect time to plant some of them from seed and others from transplants.  For a complete list of what to plant check out the planting guide on the blog.

Seed – Now is the time to plant snap beans, Lima beans, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, black eyed peas, crowder peas, summer squash and winter squash from seed.  Be sure to check out the variety list on the blog.  Patty Leander has spent years determining the very best varieties for central to south eastern Texas.

contender-bush-beans

My favorite variety of snap beans are Contender Bush Beans. Find out which varieties work best in our area on Patty Leander’s Variety list in the sidebar of the blog.

Transplants-Now is the “kind of recommended” time to put those tomato, pepper and eggplant transplants in the ground.  I say “kind of” because none of these plants really like temps below 55 degrees.  If you put them in the ground now be prepared to cover them or to cover and give supplemental heat if a late season cold snap comes through.  IMHO, if you don’t mind the extra care, it is best to go ahead and get your transplants in the ground.  The plants will mature quicker and provide you tomatoes earlier.

There are other great transplants for this weekend.   If you have not tried things like chard and kale pick up some at your local nursery and give them a try.  You can still find lettuce, collard and mustard greens starts at many places.  Get them in the ground now and enjoy fresh salads until temps start getting into the 90s.

homemade-arrangement-6

Cut flowers early in the morning to extend their vase life. Also change your water daily once they are arranged

Ornamentals

March 15 is also a great time to plant your spring color.  Right now is a great time to transplant things like salvias, portulaca, periwinkles, impatiens, marigolds and my all time favorite-petunias!  The “Carpet Series” is the most successful hybrid line.  However, my favoriote is “Laura Bush”.  This magenta petunia was developed by my friends at A&M and it is an absolute winner for our area.

Don’t miss this opportunity to seed some of our other old reliables.  I grow TONS of zinnias each year.  My favorite variety is Benary’s Giant.  Scatter them out, rake them in and harvest beautiful flowers up to the first frost.   Each spring I also plant lots of sunflowers, gomphrena and cocks comb.  All of these flowers can take the heat and actually seem to hit their peak when temps are approaching 100.

zinnia

I grow zinnias in my beds but I also grow them in rows in my garden. They make great cut flowers and hopefully pull a few bugs away from the veggies.

Flowers don’t have to be grown in beds.  My wife and I love to have fresh arrangements in the house.  To make sure I have a ready supply I plant many flowers in rows in my vegetable garden.  You can plant things like sunflowers, cocks comb and zinnia every two weeks starting now.  This ensures that I have a ready supply of fresh flowers all the way through the fall.

 

****Be sure to check out my friend Bart’s blog (Our Garden View) for more great tips for the Central and South Central garden!

I share my posts on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  It has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!