Two words: wet, hot.
Although most people don’t think about local food in early January (in single-digit temperatures), we have begun seeding for the 2018 season, and it is the perfect time to sign-up for your 2018 CSA share. We are welcoming 10 new CSA shares this season. Applications are available here on the website (see CSA Program), and deliveries will begin mid-April. New in 2018: Amarant red cabbage, Steadfast spinach, Brune Percherone lettuce, Lila Sari tomato, Slogun lettuce, TN White Crowder peas (our seed), Tsakoniki eggplant (our seed), San Jose x Waltham Butternut F2 winter squash (our seed), Joy’s Midnight Chard, and Western Front kale (among others). Also, Nancy lettuce, Rosa Bianca eggplant, and Sand Hill sorghum are back this season! We also hope to expand our winter share offerings.
I am often asked what my favorite crop is to grow. I love to grow heirloom beans. Holding them in my hands, I somehow feel connected to the millions who have come before me and will come after me, grateful for their love, dedication, hard work, and sacrifice. They represent so many things to me: tradition, survival, endurance, health, strength, humility, love.
We grew and harvested fourteen varieties of heirloom beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) this season – all of which we harvested as dry beans either for fall and winter CSA bins or for seed. A few of the varieties are fairly well-known, while others are much more rare heirlooms from the Southeast, Mexico, and Italy. We may be the only farm still stewarding two of the varieties (Anderson’s Cades Cove Bean and Lakeside’s Brown Bunch or Brown Runner Bean, not pictured below). In addition, we also grew four cowpea or field pea varieties (Pinkeye Purple Hulls, Calico Crowders, Colossus Crowders, and the very rare Tennessee White Crowder). Anna Laura photographed most of these varieties as they dry down in the greenhouse. They are pictured below, along with their variety name and a brief description.
Black Turtle – there are several strains of this variety, including several “improved” strains. This is one of the more original strains, originally from Turtle Tree Seed. Black Turtle beans are a small, shiny, productive black bean from Central America that is perfect for any recipe calling for “black beans”.
Tiger Eye – originally from either Chile or Argentina (or maybe both), also called Pepa de Zapallo. It is a large, beautifully patterned chili-bean. It has a great flavor and texture. The color pattern is occasionally reversed (ochre swirls on maroon background).
Arikara – also called Arikara Yellow, were originally grown by the Mandan and Arikara American Indian tribes. They are very drought resistant (although they did better for us this season with more consistent rain). I like to use them as a substitute for navy beans or cannellini beans, which do not grow well here.
Nez Perce – the origins of this bean are a little mysterious. It is named after the Nez Perce tribe, but there is no documentation of how the tribe used the bean. It may have originally come from farther east. It makes a good refried bean or pinto substitute.
Borlotto del Valdarno – an heirloom borlotto or cranberry bean from Valdarno, Italy, near Florence in Tuscany. A productive bean that handles humidity well.
Kebarika – a large and absolutely beautiful heirloom bean from Kenya that grows well in our hot, humid climate. It makes a good kidney bean substitute or baking bean.
Rosso di Lucca – one of the most beautiful beans I have ever seen, both as a shelling bean or as a dry bean. This is another Tuscan bean that does well in our climate. It can be used in salads or pastas like a cranberry bean or as a substitute for kidney beans. The color pattern is occasionally reversed on this bean as well.
Sulphur – also known as China Yellow, a NC/TN/VA mountain heirloom that is still popular in this area. It grows better in cooler, wetter seasons like we have had this season. It cooks quickly and thickens well, making it a great stand alone bean.
Tarahumara Capirame – an heirloom bean from the Tarahumara people in northwest Mexico. Although typically grown at high altitude, these beans produced well here this past season. We have not eaten them yet, but they look very similar to a cranberry bean, which many people trace back to Mexico originally. One of the other “cranberry” beans that we grow is from the Tarasco people in Michoacan. The pink lines may darken as they dry down.
Hopi Black – a shiny, rounded black bean with beautiful purple pods from the Hopi American Indians. They are larger than Black Turtle beans, and they prefer wet seasons. We also grew one other black bean this season, Jamapa beans (pronounced Hamapa), which is the black bean Lalo grew up on and is still widely-grown in parts of Veracruz.
Blue Moro (Morro) – an heirloom bean from Central Mexico (or Brazil?). They are very rare but are gaining a following thanks to Rancho Gordo Beans. They can be used as a black bean or a pinto bean. They hold up well to cooking and have a wonderful flavor. There are also brown and red moro beans.
June and July are busy seed saving months: we harvest and clean biennial seeds (plants that flower and go to seed in the spring of their second season), hand-pollinate cucurbit crops (squash, cucumbers, muskmelons/cantaloupes, and watermelons), trellis bean and tomato crops, and begin scouting and hand-pollinating corn crops.
This season, we only had one spring biennial crop : Variegated Collard Greens. We planted them last fall in our new hoop house, where they have been growing ever since. They began flowering in February, and we harvested the seed the first week of June. I’m very glad we had them in the hoop house, as it kept them dry despite all the rain we have had. They produced a really beautiful crop (about 6 pounds of seed off of 105 selected plants). The seeds are below.
We are growing a really special corn this season: Chapalote corn. It is thought to be the oldest corn still in cultivation. It is from northern Mexico and is used for pinole (a spice mix), atole, and popcorn. It produces small ears of various shades of brown, late in the season. We are just beginning to bag male tassel flowers and scout ears, where the female flowers or silks will emerge. Below is a picture of a stalk of Chapalote corn where the ear is just beginning to emerge from the stalk.
We are hand-pollinating several varieties of winter squash this season for pure seed: Veracruz Pipian, San Jose Club squash, Upper Ground Sweet Potato squash, and two breeding projects, San JosexWaltham Butternut squash (F2) and CarrizoxWaltham Butternut squash (F1). We are still waiting on the Veracruz Pipian squash to produce female flowers, but we have successfully pollinated all of the other squash. Below are two San JosexWaltham squash, that appear to be of the phenotype we are looking for, and a CarrizoxWaltham Butternut squash, which we will use for grow-out next season.
The “Tsakones” are an ancient people, now Greek, whose language and culture are endangered, see http://www.troumpasfamily.gr/en/location/laografia/. The “Tsakoniki”eggplant is attributed to them. Although not available commercially, its popularity is growing among independent seed companies and seed growers. We are growing it for seed for the first time this season. Its shape is like a mix of Asian and Italian eggplants, and it has a wonderful flavor. We have had some rotting issues this season due to all the rain, but we have had that problem with all of our eggplant varieties. We are just waiting for the seeds to mature, and then we will begin seed harvest.
We are growing several beans for seed this season: Cades Cove Bean (Anderson strain), TN White Crowder Pea (as far as we know we are the only source of this bean, although we shared it with Southern Exposure Seed Exchange last season), Blue Moro beans, Brown Bunch beans, Grandma Nellie’s Yellow Mushroom bean, and Tankuro soybeans, which are typically used dried for kuromame instead of green for edamame. Below are pictured Cades Cove Bean, TN White Crowder Pea, and Blue Moro beans, which we have begun to harvest.
We have a few other seed crops growing as well. The Roseland cucumber seed is also almost ready for harvest. The Mexican huauzontle (a nutritious green similar to Lamb’s Quarters) is starting to produce seed heads. The Elephant’s Ear (or Slonovo uvo) peppers are loaded with peppers but haven’t started ripening yet, and our Gito’s chiltepin peppers (which produce very late) have yet to begin flowering.