Brenda lives in northern Virginia with her husband, daughter, and other various creatures who share their backyard wildlife habitat. Brenda became a Master Gardener in 2007, after attempting to put down roots in a yard filled with clay, stones, and poorly laid sod. Little by little, she and her family removed grass, amended soil, and replaced invasive weeds with native plants.

The family now grows vegetables in raised beds year-round. Brenda, who subsequently became a Master Food Volunteer, cooks mainly with seasonal ingredients from her garden, or from local farmers markets. She invites you to join her on her mission to build an eco-friendly habitat, grow organic food, and sustain the small plot of earth we each claim. Brenda shares her gardening, cooking, and beekeeping experiences at



Harvesting and Cooking With Dried Beans
by Brenda Lynn - posted 08/26/15

In square-foot gardens, space is a premium. There's simply no space to waste on dwindling crops, or those that just aren't experiencing their best season. Knowing what to plant when is key, as is knowing what grows well in soil recently vacated by another plant.
Trellised beans save space in a square foot garden.
Beans are a near perfect crop. They:
  • restore nitrogen to soil;
  • are relatively pest free;
  • grow all summer and into fall in USDA climate zone 7 gardens; 
  • make good teepees to play under; and 
  • can be used as living shade covers for things like radish, spinach, and lettuce
In spring, I like to interplant peas, beats, radishes, and lettuce. The peas climb an A-frame trellis, protecting the shorter crops beneath. Once the spring peas are finished, I replace them with crowder peas, black-eyed peas, 'Cherokee Trail of Tears', and 'Kentucky Wonder' green beans. A 1-inch layer of organic mulch ensures adequate moisture and restores any missing nutrients to the soil.
Grow a variety of beans for color and flavor.
The pole beans are ready to harvest by mid-summer, and if left to their own devices, will dry on the vine. Saving even a few handfuls will go a long way when you're craving a hearty winter soup or stew. Once the dry bean pods are ready for harvest in late September or early October, the nitrogen robbed by earlier crops has been replenished. In go the hardy winter crops: carrots, kale, radish, turnip, kohlrabi, and mustard. They'll come in handy when it's time to make hearty winter stews with the dried beans.
Beans are delicious, either dried or fresh. Save a few in the freezer if fresh, or in an airtight container if dried.
Not only are dry beans easy to harvest and store, they're packed with protein, folate, iron, and calcium. Pull them out when the hardy winter crops are ready for harvest. The greens that pair so well with beans in winter dishes are full of antioxidants and vitamins A and K. Throw in some carrots for the beta-carotine and B-6, and you'll feel like a new person in no time.
This simple, low-fat, home-cooked soup makes a meal in itself.
Turkey Bean Soup
1 1/2 cups dried beans
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
3 turnips, diced
2 cups chopped kale
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 T. fresh sage, chopped, or 1 t. dried sage
2 quarts chicken broth
1-2 lbs. leftover turkey
1 T. olive oil
1 t. cumin
6 peppercorns
  1. Place the beans in a large non-reactive pot and cover with 8 cups of water. Soak for 8 hours, or overnight. 
  2. Drain the beans completely before making the soup
  3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the diced vegetables. Sautee until they begin to soften, about 5-7 minutes
  4. Add the vegetables, herbs, spices, chicken broth and beans to a large crockpot and cook on low heat for 7-8 hours. A crockpot is not essential, but slow-cooking ensures the best flavor, in my opinion. 
For more recipes, gardening, and beekeeping ideas, visit my blog at


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