Tuesday, 4 October 2016

A leguminous verdict

Wolverines's orca bean
Summer's over, though it took a while before I could say that with some confidence this year. 26 degrees Celsius in the middle of September is certainly out of the ordinary for this part of the world... If it wouldn't be an indication of a rather ominous trend, I wouldn't have minded so much. As it stands, I can't help but think that I'd rather have my sweet potatoes adapt to the Scanian climate than the other way around.

 In any case, it's time for some harvest updates. I'll start with the legumes, since these are all in, fully dried, shelled, sorted and weighed. As you might remember, I had a few different legumes on the trial table this year: favas beans, peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas and some lupines. As in any good story, this turned out to be a tale of heroic successes (well, kind of), epic failures, and everything in between.

Chickpea pods
Chickpea flower
If we start with the epic failures: I've discovered that something or someone inhabiting my allotment likes chickpeas at least as much as I do. My chickpea plants did fabulous in the beginning. They germinated without much of a problem in fairly cold soil, happily grew on during the warm spring, and were soon filled with cute-looking pods. Quite a few of these pods appeared to be empty, which I had read could be due to bad pollination (in turn due to low temperatures perhaps), but a lot of them seemed to have good-sized chickpeas in them. But then the disappearances started occuring. Somehow a lot of the pods just vanished before they fully matured. I didn't make much of it at first, as I've learned to accept that the various non-humans I share the garden with demand some form of tribute from me, but when the empty pods started piling up between the plants I realized I was dealing with more than your average chickpea thief. Soon I had no pods left. I'm absolutely clueless as to who or what the culprit is. I covered the plants with netting for a while with the idea that the finches might be to blame, but the chickpeas kept disappearing. Since even the pods at the top of the plants were stolen, it feels like it can't have been a mouse or vole either. Whoever it was ate a decent-sized hole in the pods, ate both the immature and the nearly-mature seeds, and then left the empty pods in provocative-looking little piles at the foot of the plants, as well as in the adjacent pea row... Any help with identifying the rascal responsible for this greedy injustice would be much appreciated! The result of all this is that the entire chickpea harvest this year consists of half a handful of tiny seeds. Not exactly hummus material, sadly. But don't you think that I'm giving up yet!

Chickpea massacre
This year's lentil story unfolded in rather similar ways. One way or another, the lentils pods developed and then just vanished in thin air. I didn't even bother looking for survivors, since I had already decided that lentils are a bit too finicky to work with anyway. I dug them all into the soil, may the lentil project rest in peace.

The fava beans did well and I enjoyed a decent amount of them fresh. I left plenty on the plants to dry as well, though here too I had to sacrifice some to the local fauna. The bigger problem manifested itself when I starting shelling the dried beans. The majority of the pods had been invaded by what I surmise is the broad bean weevil (Bruchus rufimanus), whose larvae eat their way into the bean and then emerge from the dried seed as an adult (and rather confused-looking) beetle. The result in my case was a majority of seed with beetles or beetle-sized holes in them... While probably still edible, they're a bit of pain to sort and clean that way. I'll probably stick to eating my fava beans fresh.

On to happier news then. Dried peas are susceptible to weevils as well (Bruchus pisorum to be precise), but luckily this species is a bit less common in these regions (for the moment) and I haven't had any problems with it in my garden the past year. The different pea varieties did very well, even though the cursed pigeons decimated everything that grew out above the trellis that I had constructed. Luckily, since the trellis was pretty high anyway, the damage was fairly limited. Some of the peas had larvae of the pea moth in them (Cydia nigricana, - one certainly learns a lot about insects and their insecty habbits as a gardener), basically a small white larva that eats its way through some of the peas and then leaves a trail of web and excrement behind. Thank you very much! Overall it wasn't too bad, I think I eventually had to throw out between 5 and 10% of the peas. What was left was the following, in brackets is the approximate (and I want to underline approximate) space I had for each variety:

- Govorov - 45g (I only had a few plants of this)
- Klosterärt - 600g (a 2 meter row)
- Biskopens gråärt - 340g (1-1.5 meter row)
- Bjurholms småärt - 840g (2 meter row)
- Gotländs blåärt - 710g (1.5-2 meter row)
- Solleröns gråärt - 300g (1 meter row)

Biskopens gråärt
Bjurholms småärt
Gotländsk blåärt

That's a total 1790g seeds for some 8 meters of peas, or a space of 3 to 4 m2. I'm pretty happy with that, and I look forward to the taste test.

And then, of course, for the beans. Not many problems to report here, the beans were pretty much pest-free and due to a dry and warm late August and September they dried well on the plants. The results, again with an estimate of the growing space for each variety in brackets:

- Huttiternas soup bean: 280g (1.5m)
- Borlotti: 1500g (6.5m)
- Brightstone: 910g (2.5-3m)
- Stella/Bruna bönor: 760g (3.5m - these were supposed to be 2 distinct varieties but they are almost identical and ended up together.. woops)
- Wolverine's orca: 310g (2m)

Stella/Brown bean

Summed up, that's a grand total of 3760g of dried beans for 4 rows of 4 meters, or about 6 to 8 m2.

Lupin bean (L. albus)
The lupine, finally, is still out there braving the current autumn spell we're having. I only have a couple of plants and my objective is just to see if the seed is at all edible. No big expectations there.

The final verdict of The Great Legume Project? I'll be growing more peas and beans next year, drop the lentils and stick with fava beans as a summer crop. I'm definitely trying chickpeas again, against all ods, simply because I'm biased towards chickpeas, but I'll probably be guarding them closely. Think the batata garden, annex chickpea fortress.. something along those lines.