A garden has to be more than lettuce and tomato if we are preparing for a scaled down future where foodstuffs such as wheat may be unavailable or in short supply. Somehow we need to grow calories that will provide satisfying meals.
Note: it’s not impossible to exist on green stuff. We pretty much did it one full year on a raw food diet. But, the raw foodist craves fat and spends a lot of time making nut pates and lusting after avocados and young coconuts. Since avos and coconuts are not local and most nuts don’t do too well in this climate we need to focus on plants that will grow here. Consider potatoes, squash, corn and beans.
I’ve never looked forward to eating beans though I’ve certainly eaten them with some regularity. They just haven’t ever shown up on my list of favorite foods or been a featured entree. That has changed after our recent experience growing dry beans. We grew three types this year—Beka Brown, Jacob’s Cattle and Kidney beans.
Carol Deppe, in her new book The Resilient Gardener has a lot to say about beans. She argues that most of us have never really tasted a good, fresh bean, properly soaked and cooked to perfection. I made the mistake in my original blog post about her book of telling people how to soak their beans. Apparently, this is a subject (the soaking of the bean) that falls into the same category as politics, religion and ferries to Fairhaven, that is best not brought up. Too controversial.
What isn’t controversial is something that tastes so good you hold your bowl out for seconds or even thirds. Such was the case with our first cooking of fresh, dried beans—a beautiful, painted seed called Jacob’s Cattle. The colors resemble those of a Hereford cow. We soaked them (per the Carol Deppe method) and cooked them up with some onion and garlic. Added a bit of salt and ate them like soup. Delicious. Satisfying. Best beans I’ve ever eaten even though Ms. Deppe is disdainful of this particular bean. Sorry that we only have a quart jar full. Most of the beans will have to be saved for seed.
Our second bean experiment was with kidney beans, a bean that I’ve always found to be kind of mealy and hard to digest. We cooked them with garlic, onion and spiced them with Italian seasoning and cumin, then ladled them on some polenta. Again, very tasty, tender and satisfying. Satisfying in a way that curbed the appetite.
Bean test number three featured the Beka Brown, colored like coffee with milk. It became a soup with garlic, shallots, cabbage and brown rice. Again, delicious, hearty, satisfying. With the Beka Brown we had the additional testimony of out-of-town visitors who agreed that this bean was real food.
At this point, I realized that I had really handicapped my diet after being a vegetarian for forty years by not giving prominence to beans and immediately began planning for at least two full garden beds of dry beans for next season.