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September 2008

August 2008

No Market Saturday

We take Labor Day seriously! Our one scheduled absence from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is Labor Day weekend. Why don't you take it off as well? Relax a little and we'll see you the following week, refreshed and ready to roll.

And remember Heirloom Beans ships on Tuesday!

More News from the Trial Garden

Of course things never grow fast enough but it's hard to complain. After an erratic Spring with Biblical heat waves and cruel cold snaps, it's been pretty steady here in Napa: marine layer mornings that burn off to hot afternoons.


The plants that are doing the best are volunteer amaranth and tomatillos. The weed purslane is doing fine as well. When I was growing tomatoes, I'd always plant two Early Girls to not get frustrated while waiting for the rest of the heirloom varieties to ripen. With beans, the one to pick for my area is called California. It's a little slow to germinate but it once it does, it thrives and blossoms almost immediatley and so far it's always been the first one to have beans. I would think in a good year you might even get away with two crops. The problem is that the final beans are kind of ugly.


The most stubborn bean has been the small red lima from Chiapas. It's nearly September and it seemed like not a single flower, let alone a bean. And then almost overnight it produced inconsequential flowers followed by small thin beans!


The prettiest flowers are always the runner beans. I saw the flowers for sale in a market in Oaxaca. If the season threatens to end early, remember you can harvest the flowers and eat them like sprouts, toss them in a salad or saute them with chiles for a taco filling.


Bean Trials 2008: Some Reports from the Fields

So far most of my new beans are doing great, if not better. There are a few that seem healthy and happy but show no signs of flowering, let alone beans. There are a lot of factors like the number of daylight hours, altitude and heat the might affect different varieties. I'm not so worried as we still have a ways to go.


Gemme is the gardener at the the seminal Napa restaurant Mustard's and here's a shot of her round black beans. These beans were actually from San Cristobal and hunted down by Connie Green of the Wine Forest.

Her friend Rebecca seems to be laughing at Gemme's lack of beans!


But it's a glorious plant!

Debbie Morton over at Kenwood has the same issue:

Perhaps you can tell me if I'm doing something wrong? I planted Patz Cuarenzes from Mexico on 5/17, they are definitely pole beans and are trellised and beautiful, but not one flower to date! Is this usual or am I growing ornamentals!

That's the fun of bean trials! They may never bloom and bear beans and it may be they blossom and produce beans in a flurry. And it may be they belong in their regions in Mexico and not anywhere else.


Posts here are going to be touch and go until September. I'll be in Mexico and after that we need to take a breather before The Book comes out and all those promotions start. The staff at Rancho Gordo is waiting to full your orders, however, so that part of the company is never at rest.

If you're planning farmers market visits, I just want to remind you we traditionally take Labor Day off and this year is not different. We've got to give Joan and Sara a break!

Foods the Americas Gave the World

I'm doing some research for a pre-Columbian dinner (details to come shortly) and while I knew that a lot of our indigenous food was a real gift to the world, it's almost staggering seeing it in a list like this. It's not complete (I left off a lot of the hard-to-find exotic fruits and edible weeds) but it's impressive!

Source: Foods America Gave the World
By A. Hyatt Verrill, 1937 L.C. Page & Co Books

Wild rice
Cacti (nopales and tunas)
Grapes (particular species are native to N. America)

Strawberry (Particular strains found in Chile and Colombia)
Lambs quarters
Mushrooms (not exclusive to the Americas)


Can you imagine an Indian curry without a chile? Italian food without tomatoes?
I would have bet that persimmons and purslane were Asian. Do you know? I've seen purslane listed as both Asian and as Mayan.

Images: The top illustration is from Mexico: A Study of Two Americas by Stuart Chase and the photo is a detail from a mural in the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, both by Diego Rivera.

Bean and Purslane Soup

I've been a fan of purslane for a long time. There's a famous Mexican stew with pork and purslane but sometimes you don't want a big old pork fiesta. It's rare, but sometimes you just want a nice soup.


I made this delicious soup with purslane from my back yard. I had about 4 cups of chicken stock and 4 cups of mostly bean liquid with a some beans in it. While I heated these two ingredients together, I sauteed the cleaned purslane with onion, garlic, a minced serrano and some olive oil. When these were soft, I added them to the soup. Finally, I added about a cup of boiled tomatillos and some of their boiling water to the blender, made a puree, and then this went into the soup. It cooked for another 10 minutes or so and it was a little ugly but very delicious.


Carne en su Jugo

I was in lovely Galt, California with one of my growers and instead of the deli sandwiches we normally get, I asked it he wouldn't mind trying the Mexican place next door. He agreed (I think reluctantly) and I was pretty happy.


Much to my surprise, on the menu was "CARNE EN SU HUGO", which is one of my favorite dishes from Jalisco. There are many version but they all seem to have thin cuts of cheap steak, beans (Normally Mayacoba/Peruanos/Cannarios) and bacon. This version was loaded with zucchini, something I've never seen before but it made a nice summer soup.

I have version on the Rancho Gordo website that's worth checking out.

Cactus Season: Nopal and Chorizo Tacos

My cactus plant is just in a giving mood these days. So much new growth to eat and tons and tons of new prickly pears waiting to ripen makes me about as happy as anything can.


Last night I grilled the cleaned paddles after rubbing them with olive oil and a little salt. I have a whole stack to use now throughout the week. The first thing I did was cut up one paddle and make a taco.

I just had some very spicy dry chorizo (from the new and excellent butcher at Mi Favorita Market in Napa), but you could use any dry Mexican or Spanish chorizo), gouda and the nopales.


Healthy and indulgent! That' s my kind of snack!