6HWbNHN-show-poster2x3-c7tgE2Y.png

Artbound

Start watching
MJ250sC-show-poster2x3-Bflky7i.png

Tending Nature

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
HvlSxHY-show-poster2x3-4ik43uV.png

Earth Focus

Start watching
5LQmQJY-show-poster2x3-MRWBpAK.jpg

Reporter Roundup

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

Container Culture: The Romantic Potential of Beans

Support Provided By
I know you, I walked with you once upon a bean
I know you, I walked with you once upon a bean

Watch the California Matters episode about UC Santa Cruz Farm, a pioneering, organic farm that's benefiting an entire community.

I went to Disneyland last week, where I possibly developed an unhealthy addiction to the Magic Kingdom. Please understand this is very out of character for me. True, I've always walked away from a trip to Disneyland pleasantly surprised, but always maintained an arm's length of ironic detachment. This trip was supposed to be no different. "Going to Disneyland today," I tweeted. "Gonna find all the hidden Mein Kampfs!" (To be fair, Disney was also responsible for its share of anti-Nazi propaganda, including the short featuring a beleaguered Donald Duck as a reluctant Nazi.)

I expected to be removed from the situation, but instead, I ate up every ounce of heart swelling joy Disneyland had to offer. By the end of the trip, I was so ridiculously transfixed by wonder that I actually considered buying an annual pass. Me, who ranks among her favorite terms the phrase, "commodity fetishism." What happened?

Maybe it's because adulthood makes it increasingly difficult to find anything truly "magical." To prove my point: I just now put "magical" instinctually in quotation marks. By the same turn, when you do find something that holds that magic, it is all the more surprising. And while I held off on buying an annual pass to Disneyland this time, I drove home with a firm commitment to try and find more magic in things, as increasingly difficult as that feat is as time goes on.

The next day, I interviewed Steve Sando, founder of Rancho Gordo bean growers up north, and found some of that magic in, of all places, a conversation about beans.

"I think beans are romantic," Sando told me. "Think of Jack and the Beanstalk. You just throw them in the ground and they sprout up. Then you can put them in your pocket and go to Istanbul and do the same thing."

Sando's own story is in and of itself a kind of fairytale. "I was 40, having financial issues, working at Target and thinking I was a screw up. I had a garden for food for myself, thinking, as long as I had a garden I'd be okay. You feel like you're producing something when you have a garden."

Sando says it's when he gave up that things started to fall into place for him. "I started taking my beans to the farmers' market, and one day Thomas Keller from French Laundry found my stand and loved my heirloom beans." Take that, song about beans that highlights their flatulent potential.

From there, things took off for Sando. Rancho Gordo has been featured in the pages of Bon Apetit, Sunset, and Chow, among others. Saveur Magazine even put them on their heavily-prized Saveur 100 list. Rancho Gordo is now opening up a store in San Francisco's Ferry Building, a haven for foodies. So I guess you could call Sando's story, a ferry tale. Ugh, someone punch me.

Sando's adoration for the legume might sound curious. None are the times I've heard someone emphatically declare, "I want to start a garden so I can grow beans!" Roses, yes. Eggplants, yes. Tomatoes, definitely yes. In fact, Sando got hooked on beans by accident because he was growing tomatoes and planted beans for the sake of crop rotation. But there's good reason why people should embrace beans.

For one, beans are a nitrogen-fixing crop, which means they are one of the few plants out there that will actually put nitrogen into the soil instead of taking it out. Nitrogen is important for healthy plant foliage and is usually in short supply. So, if you plant a crop of beans, you are enriching your existing soil so you can plant again using that same soil. Also, because beans don't produce large fruits, their sunlight requirements aren't as demanding. Their root systems are shallow so they don't require deep (expensive) pots.

As far as practicality it concerned, for container growers, you have two choices, bush beans and pole beans. Bush beans grow faster and don't require a trellis, but pole beans, although slower growers, have more consistent yields throughout the season. Plus because pole beans are vertical growers, they are ideal for small spaces. Here's my favorite way to make a trellis on the cheap. The National Gardening Association has a good primer on the details of basic bean varieties, but whichever you choose, start beans from seed, as beans are not very happy as transplants.

But apart from that science, fresh beans are delicious. "You don't think of dried beans as being fresh," says Sando, "but it's the same thing with pasta. You can tell the difference." And while a container garden doesn't have the space for a big dried bean yield, many beans you can eat at all stages, from the bean itself, to the pod. You can even cook up the flower. Sando recommends growing runner beans because they are guaranteed to be tasty in all these stages. He recommends looking to Diana Kennedy-- known as the "Julia Child of Mexico" (and also the mentor for Loteria Grill's Jim Shaw), for inspiration on how to cook bean flowers.

Read Sando's book, The Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Grower's Guide. Look hard for the magic in things without the protective shield of ironic detachment. And -- I'm not saying go to Disneyland, but they do have a surprising amount of rainbow chard in their landscaping. Coincidence?

Support Provided By
Read More
Close-up view of cherry blossoms in Little Tokyo.

Where to Find the Most Beautiful Blooming Trees in the L.A. Area

While L.A. may be more closely associated with palm trees lining its sidewalks and streets, this sprawling city and its surrounding municipalities is actually a horticultural delight of varied treescapes. Here are seven spots to get a glimpse of great blossoms.
A cup of ginjo sake paired with Tsubaki's kanpachi sashimi

Sake 101 Taught by Courtney Kaplan of Tsubaki and Ototo

Sake has existed for thousands of years. To help introduce and better understand this storied beverage, we turn to Courtney Kaplan, sommelier, sake aficionado and co-owner of restaurants Tsubaki and Ototo in Los Angeles.
An image of the French district in downtown Los Angeles. The image shows Aliso Street in downtown Los Angeles, California, with signs labeling buildings "Griffins Transfer and Storage Co." and "Cafe des Alpes" next to "Eden Hotel," which are located on opposite corners of Aliso and Alameda Streets. A Pacific Electric streetcar sign reads "Sierra Madre" and automobiles and horse-drawn wagons are seen in the dirt road.

What Cinco de Mayo Has to do with the French in Early L.A.

Cinco de Mayo is often celebrated wrongly as Mexican Independence Day, but a dig into the historical landscape of Los Angeles in the early 19th century reveals a complex relationship of French émigrés with a Mexican Los Angeles.