Garden News

As the cucumber vines die back after producing like champs through the beginning of August, the long beans are just coming into their own, and we have 1 (count it, 1) bitter melon on the vine. We’ve had 2 small harvests of amaranth and Japanese spinach, and it looks like we might get one more batch from the amaranthdespite the heat. Bunching onions and Chinese chives are coming along, but I think the heat is definitely disagreeing with them. The biggest treat has been okra, which is producing so that we might have enough for a dish every other week – I’ve never seen it growing before, and was amazed at how beautiful the flowers are! The tomatoes are coming in droves, but unfortunately most seem to have acquired a blossom-end rot (uneven water supply? damage during transplanting?). No matter – I’m madly harvesting, cutting out the ends, and cooking up a batch of sauce as I type.

We have a few more months to go in the garden, and I’m thinking of planting fall garlic. And I’m definitely inspired to try again next year – with a new, improved, and expanded set of raised beds! Ready to double the number to four 3′ x 3′ beds and experiment with more vegetables…. I can see how gardening becomes an addiction.


Garden update

We’ve harvested our first cucumber from the garden! It was fun to see the kids’ eyes widen with the first bite – even Nikolai ate it, and he is NOT a fan of cucmbers as a rule. I planted a longer, thin-skinned, less “seedy” Japanese variety and it looks as though we will have quite a harvest from our 3 plants, which I’ve trained to a trellis to take up less space in my raised 3′ x 3′ bed.

The one casualty in the garden has been my crop of pea shoots – some critter mowed each plant down at the base and then didn’t even eat the shoots! Instead of fulfilling my visions of a large dish of stirfried pea shoots, I had to satisfy myself with using what had been cut down for mixing with salad greens. From this I have learned a bit about what sort of plants can live together in a small bed – I should have relegated the pea shoots to the same bed where the spinach, amaranth, basil and onions are thriving, since I can keep that bed covered. Apparently the garden raiders consider my cucumber, bitter melon, and long bean plants too tough for grazing already, so when that bed was uncovered, they still left those alone.

Other than the rodent-type marauders, the garden seems to be suffering only from slugs, and they have been taken care of with a very low-tech solution: glass jars buried so that the lip is even with the soil and filled with beer. I comfort myself with the thought that at least the slugs die drunk and happy.

Braised Long Beans (or Green Beans)

You may have seen Chinese long beans in a store and farmers’ market and wondered about them – they look like green beans but they run 12-16″ in length with a slightly bumpier skin. Their interior is whiter and spongier, and the seeds are smaller and reddish brown.

Click picture for more information

These beans are used in the famous “dry” fried beans in Sichuanese cuisine, but they are most simply and quickly cooked as a braise, in which you quickly stirfry them before adding a bit of liquid to simmer them until done. If you cannot find long beans, you can also cook green beans this way, but the simmering time will be slightly longer.


  • 1 bunch long beans, approximately 8 oz
  • 1/2 T oil
  • 1/4 c water or broth
  • 1/4 tsp salt, more to taste


  1. Wash the beans well, shake to remove excess water, then snap off tops and tails and cut into 1″ sections.
  2. Heat the oil in the wok on high heat until it shimmers.
  3. Add the beans, stirfrying quickly for 1 m until they are coated with oil – they may get a few browned spots, which is fine.
  4. Add the liquid, bring it to a boil, stirring gently.
  5. Add the salt, reduce to a simmer and cover slightly.
  6. Stir after 1 m and check for doneness, repeating at 1 m intervals until they reach the texture you desire. (Long beans can take as little as 1 m depending on their freshness; green beans may take up to 5 m of simmering.)
  7. Scoop out of the wok (you can pour any remaining liquid on to the dish or leave it behind, your choice), adjust seasoning and serve.