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May 12th, 2011

Noodle Beans, Drought, and Aphids

I harvested our first ‘Chinese Red Noodle’ beans last week, after direct-seeding them on March 4. I picked all the ones that were about 12 inches or longer. Some were over 18 inches and should have been harvested a few days earlier, but I wanted to do it all at once. Warning: After they hit 12 inches, they seem to grow an inch per hour! The taste of the Red Noodle beans is VERY good. Cindy did a stir-fry with toasted sesame seeds and garlic—outstanding!

We are in the midst of a horrible drought. Thanks to drip irrigation and organic production, we’re using much less water than conventional growers. Even so, this is the time of year that legumes like row-crop and vining beans get ravaged by aphids. The cowpea in our variety trials is also decimated with aphids. In a normal year, I would have planted it in January to avoid the problem period, but our unusual winter temperatures didn’t allow that this year. I’ll try again in fall. Still, we should be able to harvest enough pods to get a taste in a week or two.

The aphids don’t seem to bother the leguminous trees; the poincianas are putting on a great show, and our pigeon pea trees are covered with pods.

Well, that’s it for now. Will gladly trade some heat for some cool!  —Andres Mejides, Homestead, Florida

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March 9th, 2011

Snakes and Lizards: Harbingers of Spring

I planted two legumes for our 2011 trials on Friday—the cowpea ‘Fagiolino Dolico di Veneto’ and the ‘Chinese Red Noodle’ bean. Today, four days later, 100 percent germination on the cowpea. When you plant them, stand back! (Red Noodle about 70 percent germination so far.)

Came into office to turn on computer, then went back out to the house to get my notes and almost stepped on a 2-foot coral snake. Beautiful male. We each went our own way. Also, the agamas are back out, so it’s definately spring! An agama is a lizard, originally from Africa and kept as pets. A bunch were released accidently during Hurricane Andrew (1992) about 10 miles from here. They have been spreading ever since. Arrived here in Homestead about three years ago. They are about 1.5′ long. Males are beautiful—bright orange heads, streaked with electric blue. They like to hang out on the lip of two of my big beds (15 feet by 100 feet). They eat snails, slugs, mice, and small rats! Usually active through winter, they knew better this year.

The best thing about the cold winter we just came through, it killed off a lot of the Bahamian anoles (another lizard) and that allowed a population explosion of our native Carolina anole. (Those are the ones that were sold in comic books as “chameleons” years ago! Found one in the bathroom yesterday!) Another good thing, it brought down the iguana population. Imagine what a 6-foot iguana could do to 12 shadehouses of organic microgreens!  —Andres Mejides, Homestead, Florida

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