Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Organic green beans

The first time I looked through an heirloom vegetable catalog, I thought all the different varieties of vegetables were pretty. That was it -- just pretty. I had no idea that it was important to plant a variety of the same vegetables. I didn't know that bugs find some varieties more or less palatable than others. I was clueless about garden diseases. I thought that maybe some varieties do better in one climate than another, so I ordered a few different types of each vegetable, having no idea which ones might do best in my state. I ordered tomatoes based on color and size, but with the other vegetables, I was really winging it.

Looking at my green beans and hearing Michael Pollan say that nature abhors a monoculture, I finally had an epiphany. The two pictures in today's blog post are both green bean plants, and they are planted right next to each other in my garden. The one that is covered in Japanese beetles is the lazy wife variety. The one that looks lovely is the rattlesnake variety. At the other end of the row are Cherokee beans, which are also perfectly beautiful. I have no idea why the Japanese beetles fly past the Cherokee and rattlesnake beans to feast on the lazy wife beans, but I really don't need to know. I'm just glad I planted three varieties.

In The Botany of Desire, Pollan said he used to think that organic farmers grew plants the same way as conventional farmers, but used safer pesticides. Then he interviews a potato farmer who avoids problems by not planting certain varieties of potatoes, as well as planting a number of different varieties each year. Doesn't that make sense? The Irish potato famine occurred because they had planted only one type of potato, which was unfortunately susceptible to a disease. If they had planted a variety of potatoes, the famine would not have happened.

What do you think will happen in the Antiquity Oaks garden next year?
A. We'll spray on a heavy-duty pesticide to show those beetles who's boss!
B. We'll buy beetle traps to catch the little buggers.
C. We'll spend an hour every evening shaking the leaves over a soapy bucket of water into which the beetles will fall and drown.
D. We'll plant Cherokee and rattlesnake beans.

Put your answer in the comment section by midnight Friday, and everyone who chooses the correct answer will be entered into a random drawing to win an ounce of bean seeds from my garden, so you can plant them next year. (Your choice of variety.) We will definitely be saving seeds for our own garden. That's one of the great things about growing heirlooms -- you can save the seeds from year to year, because they aren't patented. Choosing heirlooms also means you don't have to worry about GMOs. Since they are patented, you have to sign an affidavit swearing you will not save the seeds for planting in the future. If I see a contract in a seed catalog, the whole catalog goes into the garbage. I refuse to patronize companies that sell GMOs. Of course, one of the best things about heirloom vegetables is that they taste really great!

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday. Check out Kelly the Kitchen Kop for more blog posts about real food.

20 comments:

Mary Lou said...

GOOD MORNING DEB---OF COURSE I WOULD GO WITH CHEROKEE AND RATTLESNAKE--I MIGHT SHY AWAY FROM THE LAST ONE FOR NAME SAKE ONLY-HAVE A GREAT DAY--

Deborah said...

The lazy wife beans are so named because they are stringless, so they take less prep time. Indeed, that is the reason I bought them.

MaskedMan said...

Beetle traps actually attract more beetles than they trap - Net loss.

You can't eat pesticides. Net loss.

Soapy water and leafe shaking is inefficient at best. No gain.

Cherokee and Rattlesnake beans are good. I'd plant those.

Although, I do wonder - If there are no tasty Lazy Wife beans available, will the beetles suck it up and eat less-tasty leaves? I think, were this my garden, I'd run an experiment - Plant some sacrificial beans, several sets - One each with only a single variety, one each with all possible combinations of two varieties, and one with all three varieties. Plan on little-to-no yield from the test beans, but sit back and watch which gets eaten.

Yeah, I know - a lotta work. Maybe not worth it. But I do be curious...

J. M. Strother said...

Let me guess... D. ;) I think the name would put me off the rattlesnake variety. Be extra cautious picking them.

I planted no beans this year, just tomatoes and peppers. Did plant two varieties of each though. I wish I had a little more room in my garden. We have so many trees, and very few sunny spots.

Actually, I bet you do D, version 2.0 - that you plant Cherokee, rattlesnake, and another variety or two.
~jon

Deborah said...

Interesting idea. We have talked about planting some sacrificial lazy wife beans, since we will have the seeds. The beans were quite good, so even if we didn't get a very big crop from them, we certainly enjoyed what we did get.

Deborah said...

Good answer, Jon! I was just saying that to my husband this morning. Of course, I'll have to try a couple new varieties next year to see what happens. It's just so interesting that the beetles love the lazy wife beans so much!

Michelle said...

I definietly think you'll plant Cherokee and rattlesnake beans. :)

Laura and Kelly Allen said...

D, definitely. The rest don't seem to make mush sense.

Mari said...

E: You will plant all three varieties (or some other varieties, but at least 3 different) so that the beetles can find something to chew without ruining those plants that you really are waiting to produce something!

And you'll be excited to test some new beans anyway. Like purple or white ones.

Abiga/Karen said...

You will plant the rattlesnake and cherokee beans. But I also agree with the others that said maybe you need the other beans to trap and fool the beetles. We planted regular ol green beans, forget the name and the tops were covered with beetles but we still have gotten quite a lot of beans. I too want to try more old varieties next year. The heirloom tomatoes I planted taste the best but look the funniest. Blessings.

Anonymous said...

Don't know a thing about gardening, but I'll give this a try.

I am going to guess that you are planting Cherokee and Rattlesnake beans. I am most likely wrong. Oh well!

WG4

Michelle said...

I'm going with D. I haven't seen Japanese beetles out here; maybe I just don't know what to look for. I planted purple (my favorite) and wax (at my son's request) beans this year; both look great.

Yart said...

I think that you might be just planting the 2 varieties next year... So my answer is D.

J. V. Trias said...

Given the choices, D. :) But I agree with MaskedMan that it would be interesting to experiment....

-hippygirl

Jen said...

I'm guessing you will probably plant Cherokee and Rattlesnake beans next year (choice D).

I'm also thinking it might not be a bad idea to keep a few Lazy Wife bean plants around to keep the beetles OFF the other two varieties again next year. :)

Heirloom varieties ROCK! I'm enjoying excellent flavored tomatoes from my CSA share right now. There is NOTHING like a sliced tomato with just a bit of salt and pepper in the summer!

Carolina Trekker said...

You will plant Cherokee and Rattlesnake Beans Seeds that YOU saved! Cooked whole, steamed green beans are a nice snack right out of the fridge. The flavor reminds me of young corn.

Carolina Trekker said...

P.S. "D" gets my VOTE!

Spinners End said...

Cherokee and rattlesnake beans definately...if not for the names alone! So sorry about your experience with the turkeys :(

Annette said...

Hmmm, while option C would be very entertaining, I am going to vote D. That is my final answer. =)

Deborah said...

If you're not sure whether you have Japanese beetles, click on the photo to enlarge. You should be able to see them in the photo. The beetles are unmistakable, as well as the damage they do.

Winner is posted on the blog today!

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