Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Useful Tips for Avoiding Jail Time while Vegetable Gardening in Your Front Yard

Grow flowers among your veggies
One of the Important Media blogs, Eat Drink Better, just wrote about a Michigan family who is being threatened with financial penalties and jail time for simply growing vegetables in their own front yard.

I am very much in favor of working to change such local laws that are misguided and often outdated; but in the meantime, the following tips may help keep you out of handcuffs.

So before you get caught picking cucumbers in your front yard, are slapped with a fine, and charged with a misdemeanor, here are some strategies you can try to disguise your subversive gardening acts. You can always resort to planting edible flowers and herbs among the veggies in your front yard, and Big Brother will be none the wiser.

Grow Edibles that Double as Ornamental Plants

I have Scarlet Runner Beans growing up an attractive trellis in my front yard. The showy scarlet flowers with lush green foliage attract attention and people are shocked to learn that,  yes,  they are also an edible heirloom bean.

Edible flowers: Calendula and Borage with salad greens

Plant Edible Flowers and Herbs

I love flowers so I plant them among my vegetables. There are many attractive edible flowers, including several that are grown strictly as ornamental plants: calendula, the violet family (including Johnny jump-ups, violas and pansies), roses, chrysanthemums, and nasturtiums, to name a few. Edible flowers make colorful additions to salads and desserts, and rose petals have many uses. For starters, you can make rosewater, sugared rose petals, and rose petal jam...

Read the full post on Ecolocalizer

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lima Beans- Not Your Ordinary Phaseolus vulgaris

Hopi Red Lima (Pala Hakito)

Which would you rather eat, a dish made with lima beans or butter beans? Most people would agree that “butter bean” has a delicious ring to it, and that lima beans are notoriously yucky. In fact for many people lima beans conjure up images of pasty, horrible beans that were part of a frozen vegetable medley served in school cafeterias; or worse yet, something bland and tasteless that was just poured out of a can.

And you may have guessed what I’m going to tell you next: butter beans are lima beans. Unless you are from the southern USA, this may surprise you. And in case you think beans are all alike and interchangeable, lima beans, or Phaseolus lunatus, are a separate species from the common bean, P. vulgaris, and were named after the capital of Peru, Lima. They have their origins in the New World as common beans do, but they were domesticated far earlier. Similar to common beans, limas were (and are) also cultivated by Native Americans before the colonists arrived and were eventually introduced into Europe.

These details are important for seed savers: you can grow common beans and limas (and runners) side by side and they won't cross pollinate, because they are different species.
This is great news for those of us with small gardens!

The beautiful and unusual Christmas Lima

The term “butter bean” usually refers to baby lima beans (especially in the South) that are often eaten fresh as shell beans. But there are exceptions, for example, the Italian Butter bean is actually a runner bean species Phaseolus coccineus, and not a lima at all.

Lima beans are finally shaking-off their undeserved bad reputation and are being showcased as key ingredients of delicious and sophisticated dishes. The stunningly beautiful and unusual Christmas Lima Bean has risen in popularity due to its subtle chestnut-like flavor and texture. It was first cultivated in the U.S. around 1840, according to Seed Savers Exchange. It works well in many dishes; try them with sautéed mushrooms and garlic. You can buy the Christmas Lima from specialty suppliers and growers, or you can grow your own by ordering seeds from heirloom vegetable growers.

Hopi Red Lima in a vegetable stew
Even chef and author Alice Waters, renowned for her use of fresh local ingredients to create delicious meals, offers up a succotash recipe in The Art of Simple Food that includes freshly shelled baby lima beans. It may be time to give lima beans a second chance and restore them to their well-earned place in our gardens, on our plates and in our food heritages.

Beans, A History, K. Abala, Berg Publishers (September 4, 2007)
Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Grower’s Guide, S. Sando, Timber Press (May 17, 2011)

Photos: Urban Artichoke