A Comeback Story
Growing your own food has a lot of joys. Nothing tastes as good as a tomato plucked from the vine and immediately popped in your mouth. And it’s hard to be beat the feeling of satisfaction of seeing a boring blank plot of dirt become lush with vegetable plants over a few short months. Those of us that are twisted enough even find a genuine sense of accomplishment after each weeding session as we look back along the tidy rows free of would-be competitors for our precious plants’ water and nutrients.
But what most of us that grow our own food think about the most are the frustrations, or rather the “challenges”, because there are always a lot of them every season. In my garden this year, I’ve had to battle with flea beetles on my eggplants that distort their leaves and make them less productive. I’ve had squirrels come in and strip every last ear of beautiful popcorn off the corn stalks in just a few hours. The pepper plants have a disease, phytophthora blight, that has stunted their growth and production. My poor summer squash succumbed with squash vine borer in a display of withering agony.
I realize listing out all of those problems with vegetable production probably isn’t the most appetizing subject to choose for a food blog. But I wanted those of you who don’t get the chance to grow vegetables to know a bit more about some of the struggles associated with it. Many of the insect pests would be easier to control if I used insecticides, but that’s not really an option in my book. So you do what you can to negate their affects naturally and do your best to develop a zen attitude towards nature’s ying and yang. Fun fact for you – less than one percent of all bugs are considered pests by definition. How many of you would have guessed a percentage closer to 90? Sometimes it feels like that!
In the vegetable world, just like in our world, there are inspiring “human interest” stories full of courage and defiance of the odds (can you tell I’ve been watching my fair share of the Olympics?). In my garden this year, that story happens to lie in my bean patch. As alluded to in an earlier post, Mexican bean beetles were infesting my lovely tri-colored mix of bush beans throughout the month of July. Despite my best efforts to flick them off one by one, the larvae, bright yellow hairy egg-shaped fellows, took big bites out of the bean leaves until they were skeletal looking. With so little leaf surface, the bean plants’ ability to photosynthesize was seriously compromised. The bean crop was slowed and rather deformed to the point that I decided I’d just pull the plants out and cut my losses.
I left for a long weekend and came home to a surprise in the bean patch. The larvae had all apparently completed their metamorphosis into adults and flown away. Free of these pests, my bean plants had immediately sprung back, producing more straight and healthy beans in just a few short days than they had in two full weeks. I gave them a good long drink of water and let them in the ground for a few more days to see what they’d do. Sure enough, they’re looking healthier each time I go out to the garden.
So, while there are already plenty of string bean recipes on the blog, here’s another one to celebrate the late-in-the-season success of my underdog beans. Roasted String Beans are very easy and a nice change of pace from the more standard steamed or sautéed side dish on the dinner table. Roasting the beans brings out a caramelized flavor with a salty kick that’s quite addictive. If you have kids that haven’t quite accepted this vegetable yet, I’m willing to bet they’ll take a few willing bites of these.
Roasted String Beans
1 lb. fresh green beans
3 large cloves garlic, crushed and finely minced
1 t.fresh marjoram leaves
1/2 t. fresh rosemary, finely minced
Salt and pepper
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T.freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Prepare the green beans by washing and removing the stem ends and any bad spots.
Preheat oven to 425° F. Line a lipped baking sheet with foil. Place beans on the sheet and sprinkle with garlic, marjoram, rosemary, salt and pepper. Drizzle over the oil and use your hands to toss until everything is evenly coated. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes until golden and tender. Take out of the oven and sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately or at room temperature.