Inoculating Peas

Peas take nitrogen from the atmosphere and ‘fix’ it in the soil. Adding beneficial bacteria to the soil through an inoculant helps the peas do this extra efficiently. Here’s a good system for inoculating peas (and beans for that matter) with a commercially available bacteria (total natural and approved for organic farming, btw)
1. Place peas in a glass of water
2. Remove the peas and place the peas in a second glass
3. Sprinkle pea inoculant in the glass and shake up the peas till they are coated
4. Plant peas

You don’t need to add additional nitrogen to the soil when you plant inoculated peas, and you can till in the peas when they are done and enrich the soil in your garden bed.

We get our inoculant from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine:Inoculant for peas and beans


Getting ready to plant peas: apprentice gardener Kris learns how to pull winter weeds, add compost and turn the soil. Love this excuse to pass off the heavy lifting and just show up for the planting….

Time for Fall Crops!

Time to think fall crops. Weather has finally cooled down a bit and we are thinking of lettuces and greens and beets and carrots (which always do better for me in the fall). Given the successful overwintering of broccoli last year, maybe even spring too…Check out Johnny’s suggestions here:

Seeds Take Faith


Seeds take a lot of faith. Really.

I built my bed. I amended the dirt. I watered and amended some more. And then I planted seeds in neat little square foot sections, marked by popsicle sticks. “Carrots, scarlet nantes, half-long”. “Beets, chioggia”, “Mesclun” and “Favas” and “Peas” (oh my!) But then, after all the work, it was just me and a slab of mud (watered again for good measure).

I have been coming back each day to water, looking at the dirt. I am imagining all the things that could have gone wrong. I left too much clay in the soil and the fragile seedlings can’t push through. I didn’t plant the seeds deep enough and the birds have gotten them. I planted the seeds too deep and they are buried and will never see the light of day.

In the past when I have gardened, in my own home plot of shady perrenials, I have often done so in the more immediately satisfying way. That is, I ran to a garden center and purchased plants in 3 inch pots. A little digging and ah…instant satisfaction. But this waiting…it brings up all sorts of interesting musings.

This week we have been experiencing unseasonably warm and sunny weather. I have been making frequent trips to my little alley plot to water the mud. And I have been reflecting on what it must have been like before the days of grocery stores, when seeds were planted, as winter stores were at their thinnest. Would they sprout and bring with them promise of a season worth of food? Or would they simple disappear into the earth? Everywhere around life is bursting forth, but my plot of dirt, remains bare.

I realize that my little farm is a luxury. If it all falls apart, I am out a minor sum of cash and some precious weekend hours, but we will still live (and live well). I can journey to the farmer’s market. I can shop at organic grocery stores or the Coop or maybe even still buy a farm share. Unlike my sisters, centuries before me, my children will eat. I try and settle into their ancient fear while I wait, to try and know what it really means to grow my own food. To know that all that stands between me and hunger is a tiny seed, a bit of rain, a stretch of mud and a whole lot of faith.

Meg Casey is an activist and blogger and mom in Silver Spring Maryland. With the loving support of Edamarie, she is making a go at being an urban farmer and blogging about the new experience here.

Fava Beans

It’s Fava Time…

I’ve planted  favas every year since I started growing veggies and couldn’t find beautiful fresh ones at the farmer’s market.  This year’s supply are going in the ground today (‘Aqua Dulce’ and ‘Broad Windsor’).  Some people plant favas in the fall and let them overwinter, but I’ve had the most luck when I plant them in the early spring.  Like peas, it’s a good idea to coat your beans with innoculant if you’ve never planted peas or beans before.

Favas were first cultivated in Africa, moving from there to Europe where they sustained people for ages before Europeans came to the Americas and discovered the beans that we commonly eat today. They are high in fiber, iron and protein, low in cholesterol and fat.  The plants are beautiful:  tall stalks with fragrant white flowers that are a purplish/black in the center.  FYI: Aphids like them a lot.

I asked Omot, my co-gardener and a refugee from Gambela, a region in South Sudan/Western Ethiopia, if he knew the bean.  He didn’t , so I’m going to hunt for some at a Korean grocery store that sometimes carries fresh favas to cook before he leaves for Ethiopia in April (more about the reasons for Omot’s  journey back to Africa to face a possible genocide coming in a later post). 

Rich and meaty, the beans are delicious tossed with pasta for a vegetarian main course, mixed in a spring salad with fresh goat cheese, or served as a side with spring lamb.   They are, however, the ultimate ‘Slow Food’ and it’s only fair to let you know that you are in for some work when it comes time to prepare them. 

Here’s how you prepare favas: 

  1. Pick the long, thick pods
  2. Shell the beans
  3. Put on a pot of water to boil
  4. Par-boil the shelled beans for a couple of minutes
  5. Make a small nick in the outer waxy layer of shell on the outside of the bean with your finger nail
  6. Pop the bean out of the shell
  7. Warm olive oil over medium low in a skillet
  8. Add chopped garlic and rosemary and stew for a few minutes
  9. Add fresh favas and stew for 5-10 minutes more until bright green but soft (stewing time will varry with the size of your beans)
  10. Finish with some salt and freshly ground black pepper and your favas will be ready to serve

Take away:   If you are one of those people who carries around a bag of knitting with a project to work on while watching a soccer game, the fava process will be easy.  If not:  find a good movie, sit down and shell.  These beans are worth the hassle.

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