Green bean casserole

We’re going to Tommy’s for Thanksgiving and drew the straw that said bring the green bean casserole. We’ve been picking beans since early this month and went out this AM to get a nice fresh batch for the casserole. I planted both green and yellow beans this year so the casserole will be biracial; more yellow than green actually. I planted one 15′ row, 3′ wide and trust me, we’ve had beans, beans, beans. Since there are two families picking from the row I have no solid idea on the yield but I would guess we’ve picked about 15 pounds ourselves. The yellow beans were a variety called Rodcor and they yielded maybe double the green variety. The casserole will reflect that ratio. To be honest when they’re cooked, if I were blindfolded I couldn’t tell the difference. I was thinking about telling everybody that I just left them on the vine too long but some people might actually believe me and avoid the dish. Or how about, gosh, they were all green when we started the casserole but something must have happened on the way to the table. One thing for sure, nobody will have a fresher casserole.

Added a little new technology to my veggie growing. The weakest part of my game has been a rigorous, consistent approach to starting seeds and then nursing them up to the point of transplant in the garden. Since seeds are cheap my modus operandi has been to plant more than I need and have spares ready to handle the attrition. No more. I bought a mini greenhouse for starting seeds. Maybe micro is more accurate than mini. It’s a domed enclosure, 10” x 14” by 7”H. Under the dome is a removable block with 60 1” diameter through holes. Into each hole you insert a tapered, cylindrical sponge that has been impregnated with peat or some other starter medium. You soak the sponges in water than place them in the holes in the block. The sponges have been pre-drilled for seed placement. I’ve been eyeing this system for a while and finally pulled the trigger when I found out that Nancy’s Ott lamp, a quilting lamp, can be used as a grow light.

In the past what I’ve done is sprinkle seeds on various containers loaded with starting soil and keep them outside. It’s been difficult keeping them all properly watered, protected from temp extremes and most importantly, with the proper amount of light. With all that, I still get enough seeds started to get the job done with spares. I then have to transplant the small starts into individual containers or larger flats with individual compartments. That transplant process results in some attrition. Eventually, those that have survived the first transplant are moved to the garden – a process that generally disturbs the roots and results in additional losses. With this new system, you pop out the plant in the sponge and move it directly to the garden, roots intact. According to the brochure, I should expect 100% success from start to finish – seed to plant in the garden.

I commandeered the Ott light and started my first batch on Nov 15 with 30 sponges. Nancy was willing to part with the lamp because this whole process promises to be much neater and eliminate having pots and flats scattered around the screen porch or moved indoors on newspaper when the weather dictated a change. I started Nov 15 with 10 each lettuce, cabbage, and cauliflower and had germination within 2 days on all the cabbage plants; germination of the cauliflower in 3 days; buttercrunch lettuce 5 days. On day 3 all the cabbages had 2 distinct leaves. So far so good.

Another factoid for your garden encyclopedia. Bugs don’t attack all the members of a common set of veggies. In other words, you can have a row of 8-10 cabbages and only one or two will be attacked in a big way. I wonder if those particular plants are putting out just a bit different oder or have a slightly different taste. This is not the first time I’ve noticed it and it lets me rationalize that we’re “sharing”. In one row I planted 2 different varieties of Swiss Chard. One variety has thick, robust leaves and deeply colored stems. The other was promoted as having a more delicate flavored, light textured leaf. No question the bugs prefer delicate flavor. I planted them in an alternating pattern so every other chard plant is getting chewed to pieces while the others remain virtually untouched.

Tangerines and Grapefruit finally sweetened up. Much smaller than last year but will make decent juice. I think this year I’ll try a tangerine-grapefruit juice mix – since my oranges were nailed in the last freeze of 2009.

Had a great day yesterday. I was invited to join Tom and Simon on a trip to Gainesville to visit Florida and meet with a representative of the Ag and Life Sciences Dept. We were joined by Simon’s other grandfather so we overwhelmed the rep we met and her confederate in Admissions. They have built so much since the last time I was there that it was difficult to orient myself except for the old buildings in the immediate vicinity of my old dorm. The old cafeterias have been replaced with food courts with real world, great looking food. For a kid, it would be dying and waking up in a world of fast food places – wall to wall Wendy’s, Burger Kings, Starbucks and many familiar names. I talked to a girl who was an RA at my old dorm and learned, sadly, that they have to do their own linens and towels. That was how I earned my money on campus – in the dorm laundry room. Also the three person suites we endured are now set up for four. We also hit Florida Field and was blown away by how big it is relative to what I still had in my mind. The ROTC drill field is now a giant basketball arena and a parking lot for the stadium – nice improvement there. The pool hall where I earned a few dollars now and again has been replaced with some generic retail space. They’ve preserved enough of the green spaces and the big, old trees that it still has a nice elegant southern feel to it. We went by the band building to see what Simon was facing so far as a place in the Marching Band was concerned. I had some doubts as to whether someone other than a music major had a chance but was surprised to learn that maybe only 15% of the band members are music majors. Chris enlightened me that Music Majors don’t usually do the marching band!!! It sounded like Simon would most likely be able to join the band. But the thing that stuck in my mind the most was when we found gator pajama bottoms in the book store selling for $60. Nancy is wasting her time on quilts.

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