Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Cranberry beans and red gooseberries

Yesterday was very unusual - it wasn't raining and I had time to do some gardening. Over the past month or so the heavy rain storms have transformed the well-ordered plot into a jungle of plants that have gone to seed and weeds.

I discovered that the dwarf french beans Vermont Cranberry were ready for picking. This was one of my selected vegetables from the Heritage Seed Library catalogue - nine plants grew from the ten beautiful cranberry red cream flecked beans. Why do I select a particular variety? I like unusual coloured varieties; unusual names; and vegetables with an interesting history. Vermont Cranberry is an American heirloom bean form New England, dating back to 1876. I just noticed that the HSL catalogue mentions "very attractive red flowers" but the flowers on my plants were cream!?


Now for the taste test, looks and a good story are all very well but I won't save the seed for next year if it's not worth it's place on the plate! The green beans were difficult to spot among the leaves, so I was surprised how many I picked and some looked as though they may be too mature for eating as green beans, but the cooked beans were very tender and a gorgeous emerald green colour - top marks. The catalogue claims "a unique sweet taste" and I agree, not a normal green bean flavour - more delicate and sweeter. Definitely one to save seed from. I dressed the cooked beans with a little cold-pressed rape-seed oil and chopped savoury and black pepper - delicious!



We've two varieties of gooseberry in the garden, Invicta - a green cooking gooseberry which has a slight mildew resistance; and Whinhams Industry - a red dessert gooseberry which in previous years has suffered so badly with mildew that we have considered digging it up. I chose it because the fruit was burgundy red; it has a great name; and I'd never grown dessert gooseberries before. Well this year we've had some pretty unseasonal weather which has taken it's toll of the crops (onions and potatoes especially) but the soft fruit has been magnificent - strawberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, green gooseberries, and now the red dessert gooseberries! What fantastic looking berries and they taste like gooseberry slightly sweetened with honey, like a ripe kiwi-fruit in tartness - Whinhams Industry has earned its place in the garden at last.

7 comments:

  1. Hi Celia,

    I'm having the same experiences as you, it seems ... a bumper year for soft fruit but problems with potatoes and onions (mind you, my onions got sat on by the cat and squashed flat, which has a lot to do with it). I love those burgundy gooseberries! I have several old-fashioned gooseberry bushes left here by the previous owner but I have no idea what varieties they are, and they're all green types.

    Regarding the flower colour of Vermont Cranberry, yes, mine are white/cream like yours. I noticed that the HSL catalogue said it had red flowers but I assume that's a mistake. I've never actually seen a French bean with red flowers. (It's usually just runner beans that are red flowered, hence the name Phaseolus coccineus.) Anyway, it's good to know that they taste good ... I'm about to pick my first lot for tonight's dinner! Though most of them I will probably leave to mature and shell out the actual beans. Hopefully those WILL be red!

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  2. You're right Resbie - I've only seen white, cream or pale mauve french bean flowers. Do you report back to the HDRA/HSL how well the vegetables grew and tasted?

    Celia

    PS why do cats always roll on the onions?

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  3. Gooseberries - I planted one of the two varieties that are supposed to grow here. My bush became quite mildewed so I cut it down and it seems better now. From what I can gather in my readings, English gooseberries are not the same as the varieties on this side of the ocean. They are supposedly not as tasty, so I'm curious. It's rare to see gooseberries here too ... which is a shame. (a little tiny container can cost several dollars and is rarely available).

    The beans look delicious - reading your blog makes me think that I should try some heritage varieties next summer. I need to broaden my gardening to include more veggies.

    Cats also love rolling in catmint... and over garlic scapes too.

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  4. Hi Celia

    Well well well! A quick wander down to the greengrocers and hey presto! Red dessert gooseberries a plenty. So me and the nipper are designing a cake tonight, infact we have already made a start. It is a real mash together involving walnuts and typical sponge mixture, a bit of fun in the kitchen, hope I can do them justice!

    Regards
    David

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  5. None of my red gooseberries have got to the kitchen yet - they are eaten straight off the bush in the veg garden!

    Hope your cake recipe is put on your blog.


    Celia

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  6. Celia - it was a triumph! It will be on the Blog soon

    thanks
    David

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  7. Hi Celia

    The recipe is on, enjoy!

    Regards
    David

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