This weekend was lovely and cool after a few weekdays of bright heat and sunshine. There was a tropical cyclone in Western Australia that caused heat and humidity here (but not a lot of rain, unfortunately), and the garden responded with a sudden burst of late Summer productivity. This meant that my Saturday morning job was to pick some veggies, including some unexpected Purple King beans, eight enormous zucchini, and some green capsicums. We have about six eggplants on the way and a plethora of flowers indicating another lovely crop coming, but I decided to leave the eggplant for another week.
My fervent hope for the eggplants is to have enough to make Brinjal Pickle, the king of Goan condiments. So far we have picked eggplants consistently, but not enough to make a pickle – hopefully by next week there will be enough to make my spicy pickle wishes come true. My rule with pickles and jams is that I only make them if I grow the main ingredient myself. This is partly because I am a tightwad (why would I go to all that effort if I have to buy the ingredients?) and partly because I want the bragging rights (homemade! homegrown! all bow before the pickling queen!!!) If I cannot pull together enough eggplants, I will have to wait for next year.
Purple King beans are a fun bean to grow. This is an old heirloom climbing variety that grows a pretty purple-green vine. I have grown dwarf beans in the past, but to be honest I do not have a lot of luck with them. I have found the yield to be low compared to the climbing variety.
This year my kids helped me to build some teepees from bamboo stakes, and we planted about twenty seeds. Don’t bother to plant the bean seedlings you sometimes see at nurseries – these are a straight ripoff. Beans should always be sown direct where you want them to grow from seed, and are great value. I bought my pack of seeds from The Reject Shop for less than two bucks. Most bean seeds that you buy are heirloom varieties, but you can check the packet. If the seed packet says ‘F1,’ that means it is a hybrid and you cannot save the seed for next year.
Of course, you can make sure your seeds are heirloom by buying them from a more reputable company than The Reject Shop! If I want a very rare variety, I go to The Diggers Club, but for the traditional old bean varieties like Purple King, Borlotti, or Scarlett Runner, you can get them easily from Bunnings or the discount shops with no problems and for a low price.
The Purple King is fun to grow because the beans grow purple as you can see in the photo above, but when they cook they turn green. It’s entertaining for kids to watch them cook and magically change colour.
Flavour-wise, they taste the same as regular green beans. Try not to let them grow too big – I let these grow a little too large for my taste, because I was busy this week and I actually did not realise there were so many there. It is late in the season and I was not expecting such a large second crop. Beans love hot weather and will only set fruit after they have a few days over thirty degrees centigrade, which is why we have had a second crop. I am a big fan of green beans, so I was happy to have a big crop. I blanched some for the freezer for later in the year, and I also gave some away. All up from our two “bean teepees”, we have picked about five kilograms of beans, which is not too bad for plants that are really “set and forget.”
These plants have required minimal care, aside from regular watering. We have a dripper hose set up around them and that is it. Beans do not need fertiliser, and although they can sometimes be susceptible to whitefly, we have not had that problem here. If we did, we would have used yellow sticky flypaper to deal with it.
The rest of my afternoon was spent grating zucchini for Zucchini and Haloumi burgers (dinner), making my patented zucchini chips (baton zucchini and crumb, then bake – serve with mayo and green chilli sauce), and Zucchini Chocolate bread. Tonight it’s Zucchini and Bean stirfry with honey soy chicken. We have never grown a zucchini plant like this one. Along with the pumpkins it has taken over the backyard. I thought about pulling it out the other day, but it keeps putting on new growth and adding new flowers. Until it stops doing that, I will leave it there and we will keep eating zucchini.
By the end of the Summer we will have eaten so much green food we will all be looking like The Hulk.