Trials and errors - a gardening column by Green Thumb

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Much of gardening is a haphazard sort of adventure. I have a habit, however, of viewing my garden plots as a number of science experiments!

My last column concerned my bush green bean trials, with the “Dragon Langerie” variety showing an excellent flavor, very crisp and with a good yield. But I also grew several varieties of pole beans – with Rattlesnake beans the clear winner for yield, reliability and flavor.

This year I tried a few new crops I had not ever grown before. Many folks are concerned about the renewability of our gardens and our garden seeds. Some feel that with a government on a seemingly destructive debt track, gardens will become increasingly important in the future. So I chose

to try several varieties of field corn and beans for drying.

How does one choose from the hundred varieties of beans available? There are kidney beans, garbanzos and ninety-eight other types one has never heard of, or tasted.

I chose to look at some less well-known types that were recommended for our northern climate. Last year I grew “Yellow Indian Woman” beans and didn’t have too much success, as a friend pulled up most of my plants! But this year, they grew well, with an impressive yield. I also grew “Dry Hutterite,” again with good yield. The

“Dry Hutterite” claim to fame is that the beans can be soaked overnight and then cooked in only fifteen to twenty minutes. Another variety was “King of the Early,” which did not grow well inter planted with corn, but produced huge beautiful red and white beans. They look like an extra-large kidney bean crossed with large white Cannelini bean! I will plant them again next year (not with corn!) to see how well they do. And I am looking forward to some bean soup this winter, and baked beans, and minestrone soup.

The best field corn this year was, by far, “Painted Mountain.” It lived up to its reputation and grew large ears (averaging over 200 kernels) as well as smaller secondary ears, on each stalk. All ears were fully developed and matured. Not all ears had eight rows; some had ten. I guess it can best be described as a primitive corn. Opening the husks, for me, was like opening Christmas gifts. The kernels ranged from a deep purple-black, to mahogany red, to yellow, to white, to green, and every color in between. Each ear was a different arrangement of colors. And the kernels sometimes spiraled in the rows and other times were in straight rows. The corn was delicious when boiled for corn on the cob (when immature). I am looking forward to popping the dry kernels off the cob and grinding for corn bread, tamales and corn (pan) cakes. The kernels seem to come off fairly easily, so this should be more fun than chore.

What did you plant this year that worked well? What varieties just didn’t do well at all? I would love to hear trial and error stories!

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