Hot Beans

By Roger Erpelding
Contributing Writer

It is just plain tradition–picking beans on my Mother’s birthday, July 24. And it happened again this year.

The third picking of beans occurred on July 15, and the fourth picking occurred on July 19. The results were that Beth and I enjoyed four tasty meals. By the time the fourth picking occurred, the crop was getting smaller, and the quality was also not as good. I told Beth that unless it rained some more, and soon, the bean crop was done. But four pickings is a great milestone. Anyone who raises bush green beans will tell you that from this point forward, the beans are about finished. I noticed also that the plants themselves are looking tacky; this is also typical. They just get played out.

And then the rains came. We had an inch Friday morning, and 0.4 Saturday morning. So on Sunday evening, the 24th, it was time to scout for more beans. There were only a large handful to harvest, not enough for a meal, so I called this picking 5A. I think 5B will occur on Thursday night, and although the meal will be small, it’ll still be fresh, organic, and from our garden.

Now everyone’s focus turns toward tomatoes.  I have talked with several gardeners, and it looks like a good year for this crop. Having said this, it may be my worst crop ever. I need to rotate, and unfortunately, this year they are in the west part of the garden, just east of the old perennial bed. Too much shade. The apricot tree that delivered all of the tasty fruit earlier in the month is the culprit. Next year I’ll rotate to another part of the garden. Maybe I’ll have a crop failure next year, but it shouldn’t be from lack of sun, unless the weather dictates otherwise.

This brings us to the obvious question–can blind people independently pick tomatoes? Absolutely. How do you know when they’re ripe? There are two methods that usually work. First, tomatoes ripen from the bottom up. Find the base of the tomato vine, and start moving your hands up. The second indication of ripeness is that they tend to get soft when they turn red. For some reason, this year my three ripe tomatoes remained hard long after they were picked. So I must admit that I have had two people who are sighted scout them for me. But I did know when the fruit set, and figured that it was about time to start checking them. Cherry tomatoes present two different challenges. The same method for determining ripeness will work. However, they tend to fall off the vine when they are ripe. An even more challenging problem is that they tend to crack. This is due to an uneven growth habit–too cold or too wet, followed by too hot and too dry. There are some crack resistant cultivars, but they haven’t worked well for me. I am looking forward to my first harvest of the cherry tomatoes. I have vines and fruit, now it is time to check the vines for ripe fruit, which I will do tonight.

When I finished the fourth picking of green beans, I also picked peppers. I have two varieties in pots–sweet banana, and jabeneros. I use length and firmness to determine when to pick the sweet peppers. This also works for bells. The hot peppers are another matter. I raised the jabaneros for my son Jack, and he was over Saturday night to pick up his harvest. They are teardrop shaped, and wrinkly. Jack said they were green. We decided to let the new peppers hang for awhile to see if they turn red, or get any hotter with age.

Just north of my tomatoes are several bell peppers. Again, they are sun challenged, and are coming along very slowly. But in the north east corner of this section is a sunny area, much to the pleasure of my eggplants.  They are blooming, and I see a couple of baby eggplant hanging on. It will be awhile before they are ready to harvest. When they feel smooth and glossy they are fit; when they begin to feel rough they will be past their prime, and may be seedy and bitter. They will need to be bigger than hen’s eggs before I even think of harvesting them.

And since it rained, I took this occasion to dig my garlic on Sunday morning–a real great job. I have had a crop success year after year, and this crop is consistently good. I raised two types this year–elephant garlic, and German hard neck garlic. The elephant garlic are the biggest. I know they are ready to harvest when the leaves are dead, and the garlic heads have bloomed. I use a large trowel, and dig a couple inches away from the base to avoid damaging the bulb. Some of them did break apart, but this is not a problem–I will just use those partials first. And this year, not one bulb was damaged by my trowel. After digging them all and putting them in a pile, I bring out a small flat box, clip off the tops to within a couple inches of the bulb, and place them in the warm dry garage for storage. For the next 2 or 3 days the garage will wreak of garlic. Hey, there are worse smells.

When picking beans last night, I noticed that the area where my carrots, beets and kohlrabe are growing have again become weedy. This will be one of my next tasks, as well as checking on my newly planted green beans. While I’m at it, it appears that the onions are dead, and ready to dig as well.

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