Monday, January 3, 2011

Serendipitous bean crosses

I thought that beans were strictly self-pollinating...until this year!  While shelling my dry beans, I noticed some that looked like this:

and this:

I'm not really sure about the parents of the first one, but this is my guess:
 Momma (Black Runner) - Baby - Daddy (Rattlesnake)

I remember picking the speckled "baby" beans from the Black Runner plant and the pods appeared to have faint stripes similar to the Rattlesnake beans.
The second "new" bean came from this pod on the Painted Lady Runner bean plant:

 You can, again, see the purple stripes on the pod coming from Rattlesnake (aka "baby daddy"):
Rattlesnake beans
 Painted Lady Runner beans

Offspring of Painted Lady and Rattlesnake.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Book Review: The Alternative Kitchen Garden

Book Review:

The Alternative Kitchen Garden an A-Z by Emma Cooper

The author of this book started a weekly podcast called "The Alternative Kitchen Garden" a few years ago.  Emma provided vegetable growing tips that were primarily for those with a similar climate to her native Britain.  But the most interesting topics of the podcasts (to me, at least) were those such as "Goji Berries", "Achocha" and "Oca".   Podcast listeners were entrained into Emma's adventures in growing these and other usual food crops.  These podcasts inspired me to grow things like ground cherry and pak choi.

The book originates from the podcasts that Emma created and it's full of interesting topics.  It is not, however, a step-by-step guide to growing fruits and vegetables.  It is a collection of short (1-2 page) discussions of various topics related to gardening told from a sustainable (yet, witty!) point of view.  The part I love best is the honesty of the text.  Readers are not only told about the successes in the garden, but also the failures.  This is so important, and something that gardening books usually do not include.  For example, "From my two containers, I got what looked like a reasonable harvest of tiger nuts (about 200g in total).  However, they were very hard and not at all sweet.  They were fiddly to clean and not at all tasty.  I don't know what went wrong, because tiger nuts are supposed to be nice…" 

Successes in the Alternative Kitchen Garden include leaf beet and Welsh onions, which can be harvested almost all year long.  I plan to find seeds of each and grow them in the spring.

The writing style is highly conversational, which may be pleasant or off-putting, depending on your preference.  When discussing decomposers, the author states, "If they didn't munch their way through all of the dead animals, dying plant material and (let's face it) poo then we wouldn't be knee deep in the stuff because we wouldn't be here - there would be nothing left for us to eat."  I find this style more engaging, personally.

The Alternative Kitchen Garden an A-Z is for garden newbies and veterans who are interested in trying something new.