Fresh from the Gardens Green Beans

Growing and eating fresh green beans is something that was second nature to my family growing up.  In fact, my dad’s garden is currently full of fresh green beans, and as you can see in my pictures, I am carrying on that same tradition in my own garden. I have great memories of sitting on my great-grandmother’s porch shelling bushels of peas. We always had a deep freezer, so anything that was not cooked, eaten or canned, was frozen and put away for the winter. When gardening season is over, I still purchase fresh green beans. My favorite green beans are the French Haricot Vert green beans.  My clients love these too, and one of my favorite ways to prepare them is to just blanch them briefly for about 3-4 minutes and shock them in an ice bath.  I then sauté them with a small amount of fresh garlic and toss them in a grainy mustard or Dijon mustard/shallot/red wine vinaigrette. Talk about good!  Any fresh green beans can be prepared this way.

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This year I ordered green bean seeds from Pinetree Garden Seeds http://www.superseeds.com.  It’s become one of my favorite spots to find good organic seeds. I planted Black Valentine Green Bush beans and Bush Blue Lake Green beans. I prefer to plant bush green beans rather than pole green beans because I find them easier to maintain as they grow low to the ground in a small bush. Pole beans require a little more effort as you have to find something from them to climb onto. 

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Green beans are planted about an inch deep and are ready to harvest anywhere from about 49 to 55 days, depending on the variety of the bean. I planted the majority of my beans a week or two before April 1st and am picking some of them now. I planted more a few weeks later and they are blooming now. I plan to plant one more bunch of beans so that I will continue to have beans throughout the summer. 

So what am I going to do with all of these wonderful “fresh” green beans?

  • I will pressure can some of them and store them away for later in the season (can keep canned vegetables a year or more) 
  • I will make Spicy Dilly Beans (which taste like a crunchy pickle) – an excellent snack
  • I will just cook them fresh and eat them!

Canning fresh green beans is easy. However, it’s very important that you use safe canning methods and understand the correct canning process for fresh vegetables. The National Center for Food Preservation is a good resource for canning safety.  http://nchfp.uga.edu.  Another good resource is the Ball Canning Guide.

If you want to learn more about canning and preserving in a fun learning environment, contact Fresh From the Gardens to schedule an in-home canning party. Class details are noted in the following link:

http://freshfromthegardens.com/canning-classes-2/

If you have a venue in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area that can accommodate your group, Chef Sandra is happy to come to your location.

Other Canning Offerings

Private one-on-one Private canning lessons. Get assistance with canning your own supply of fruit or vegetables from your garden or from a local farmer.

Fruit Trees – A Family Tradition

Spring is absolutely one of my favorite times of year.  I look forward to planting my Spring vegetable garden and I thoroughly enjoy the beauty of seeing everything in full bloom this time of year.

When I was growing up it was very common to see fruit trees all over our neighborhood.   Some of my fondest memories were plum, pear, and peach trees growing in our yard and also in my great-grandmotherdear’s yard, just one block up the street from our home. I will always remember the muscadine grape vines growing in her backyard. Talk about the best grape jelly!

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Carrying on this family tradition, I planted three fruit trees a few years ago, (plum, peach and nectarine) and to my surprise, in the first year my plum tree produced a couple of plums--yes two plums--and my peach tree also produced two peaches, as you can see in the pics.  They were all delicious and gave me hope for this year. I am hoping for a huge yield. My sister Agnes also planted fruit trees and her little peach tree was loaded with peaches last summer.

Fast forward to this Spring.  All of my fruit trees are currently in full bloom.  The pink blooms are from the nectarine and peach trees and the white blooms are from the plum tree. 

plumsI can’t wait to infuse some of my homemade jams and jellies into some amazing spring and summer dishes.

Will keep you posted! 

The Amazement of Swiss Chard

Did you know that Swiss chard is known for being one of the most nutritious vegetables in the world? Now that’s definitely a good reason to think about adding Swiss chard to your diet.

Growing up, we had a lot of different types of leafy green vegetables in our family garden including mustard, collard and turnip greens, and a variety of different types of lettuces. I can remember eating salads that included everything that came from our garden (the soft butter lettuce, the tomatoes, the onions, the cucumbers, the radishes, a couple of different kinds of parsley, fresh dill, rosemary, garlic, different types of mints).

However, I have to admit that I don’t remember seeing Swiss chard growing in our garden. Since becoming a chef, my culinary palate has really expanded and Swiss chard is now something that I grow in my own garden. It’s super easy to grow.

I picked a nice bunch of Swiss chard from my Fall garden and mixed it with a small bunch of rainbow chard.

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The best Swiss chard I have ever seen growing was in my friend Cory Russell’s garden. Fresh From the Gardens featured Cory’s Fall Garden in one of our gardening videos. If you haven’t seen it, you should definitely check it out. It includes some really good gardening tips.

Tip: You can also substitute azomite for the micro nutrient mix mentioned in the video. Axomite includes natural trace minerals for your soil. It’s not something you’ll probably easily find but if you google where to purchase azomite in your location, you should get a list of locations.

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Here’s a link for Texas locations to purchase axomite and to Garden Variety Organics which is where I purchased a bag of azomite. I am experimenting with the gardening method mentioned in my video and having great success. My dad also uses something similar in his garden.

http://www.azomiteminerals.com/states/Texas.html

http://www.gardenvarietyorganics.com

If you head out to Garden Variety Organics in Waxahachie, TX, make sure you use your GPS!

You’re probably wondering how to prepare Swiss chard so I’ve included a few recipe links below. I’ve tried Swiss chard a lot of different ways, and one my favorite ways to eat Swiss chard is to caramelize onions, toss the Swiss chard with the onions and finish it with a dash of sherry vinegar or red wine is also good. It really does make a great side dish and pairs well with baked fish.

What to Look For:

You'll typically find three types of chard in your grocer or farmer’s market. Look for crisp, vibrant green leaves with no yellow or brown marks.

  • Rainbow chard has colorful red, pink, yellow, or white stalks
  • Fordhook Giant is identifiable by crinkly leaves and thick, white, tender stalks
  • Ruby Red (or Rhubarb) chard has thin, red stalks and slightly stronger flavors

How to Store:

Rinse Swiss chard mildly and store in moistened paper towels in a plastic bag (with a few pinholes to allow air to circulate) in the refrigerator for two or three days.

Swiss Chard Recipes:

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/swiss_chard/#ixzz3qkJIB5Y8n

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/caramelized-onions-swiss-chard

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/swiss-chard-with-garlic-oregano

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/swiss-chard-creme-fraiche

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/sauteed-swiss-chard

http://www.food.com/recipe/sauteed-swiss-chard-dont-be-afraid-232055

http://www.chowhound.com/recipes/swiss-chard-with-lentils-and-feta-cheese-30566

http://blog.williams-sonoma.com/todays-recipe-swiss-chard-onion-cheese-frittata/

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Health Benefits of Swiss Chard

Just one cup of Swiss chard provides over 700% of our daily needs for vitamin K and over 200% of daily vitamin A. Swiss chard contains high levels nitrates, which have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise and enhance athletic performance.

http://www.webmd.com/diet/swiss-chard-9-healthy-facts

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/284103.php

 

 

Thai Basil

Thai food is by far one of my favorite cuisines, and Thai Basil is one of my favorite types of basil. Thai Basil looks a lot different than Sweet Basil. It has small narrow leaves, purple stems, and pink-purple flowers. I still have a very nice Thai Basil plant that I planted in a medium-sized pot this Spring that is still growing strong right now – that is, until our first frost hits here in Texas shortly. That means I have to make full use of my Thai Basil now!

As a personal chef I really like the way Thai Basil holds up in cooking. It’s great in recipes because its sturdy leaves stand up well under high or extended cooking temperatures, unlike Sweet Basil, which wilts under the same type of heat.

Here are a few links to some of my favorite type of recipes using Thai Basil. Of course, I always change a thing or two to suit my own tastes, but these recipes all have the Thai flavors that I love.

Recipes Using Thai Basil:

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/spicy-thai-basil-chicken

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/213947/panang-curry-with-chicken/

http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016835-pad-kee-mao

Thai Basil 4Of course, all types of basil are best when use fresh, but there is a way to prolong using basil a couple more months into the winter. I plan to run some of it through a food processor and freeze it in ice trays. It will be good for a couple of months in the freezer. Once it freezes, I’ll just pop it out of the ice trays and place in freezer ziplock bags to use in some Thai soup recipes.

I’ve also included a couple of links where you can purchase Thai Basil, Holy Basil and all types of gardening seeds. Amazingly, there are at least 100 different varieties of basil. Pine Tree Garden Seeds and Rare Seeds are excellent sites. I am also going to order some Holy Basil for planting next Spring. Basil is so easy to grow in a pot and I encourage you to give it a try. Holy Basil is not as easy to find here in the U.S. as Sweet Basil is, so it’s a lot easier to just order it.

For you serious Thai food lovers, there are three types of basil that are commonly used in Thai cuisine.

Thai Basil – used throughout Southeast Asia and also a lot in Vietnamese cuisine and used a lot in Western kitchens. It can best be described as anise, licorice-like, and a little spicy.

Holy Basil – has a spicy, peppery, clove-like taste and Thai people love this basil probably the most. It’s used in India for culinary, medicinal and also for religious purposes.

Lemon Basil – has undertones of lemon in both scent and taste

Sources for Seeds

http://www.superseeds.com/collections/herbs/basil

http://www.rareseeds.com/store/herbs/herbs-a-e/

Health Benefits of Basil

http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/basil-herb.html