Tuesday, September 14, 2004


Beans, beans, they’re good for the heart
The more you eat, the more you fart
The more you fart, the better you feel
So eat beans with every meal!

Too crude? Ah, but we have beans, beans, everywhere every kind of beans. Last night I repeated that little rhyme for my kids and they were so impressed with me! Of course, they were farting at the time! We do have toooooooo much fun.

We grow I don’t even know how many different kinds of beans. We’ve got McCaslin and little greasy beans for green beans mature now. For some reason I remember my grandmother’s green beans vividly. She always bought McCaslins from Howard Counts so we started calling them Howard Counts beans. After she died, my uncle gave us a start of seed of them and now we call them Zella beans after her. The little greasies are some of my favorites – their pods don’t have hairs on them so they look slick, shiny, greased, and thus their name. And there are several different kinds of them – little white ones, little dark ones, and long ones. We got some seed for the “big, old-fashioned” ones from a guy at a feed and seed store this year, although he was selling them privately, on the side. Black market! They are just now setting on beans.

The shelly beans that are mature right now are Octobers and Jacob’s cattle beans. The Jacob’s cattle beans came from a woman my husband works with who grew up in Maine and they eat a lot of beans there, and a lot of this variety, whereas we’ve never heard of them here. That’s one of the great things about gardening and being gastronomically adventurous in general. We grow most shellies by just mowing whatever weeds there are, broadcasting the beans (most often just store-bought dried beans – they are viable and a lot cheaper than “seed” beans), and covering with grass clippings. The beans grow up through that, and so do some weeds. We try to mulch over the weeds at least one time to give the beans an advantage. That is all we try to do anywhere, provide the things that we want to grow a slight advantage over the things we are less interested in growing. That is true in the garden, in the field, with the kids, and within ourselves but that gets to a philosophical level that gets difficult to discuss.

There are so many different kinds of beans it is incredible. There are little ones and big ones, there are beans of all colors. There are beans that are so pretty blooming that some people grow them as ornamental flowers, like the scarlet runner beans. We’ve got a purple podded snap bean almost mature now – the are beautifully purple but when you cook them they turn green. Thing is, they taste like you took three green beans, concentrated the green and put it all in one of the purple ones. With shellies we grow mostly larger ones because they are easier to shell. You can grow lentils, for example, but there are only two little bitty tiny lentils in a pod – and they cost 33 cents in the store.

But that shelly beans are cheap is true of pretty much all of them. What you can’t buy at any price is the taste of green shelled shellies. You pick them before they are fully mature and way before they are dry, shell them out, then preserve them which you can do by freezing them as is or by canning them. Canned shellies are also known as convenience food. I’ve had people who’ve eaten beans all their lives taste a can of green shelled beans and beg for the recipe, not believing that it is nothing but beans, water and salt, pressure canned. Pressure cooked beans, whether dried & soaked, green shelled, or green beans are just plain better.

Another treat is green soy beans, aka edamame. I picked a colander full of soy pods last night too. To prepare them to eat, all you do is steam them a little then pop them out of their hull, almost like you’d snack on peanuts in the shells. But you can also steam them and freeze them, then all you have to do is thaw them and they are like fresh – even two years later. And all the goodness of soy (for those of us in peri-menopause or men concerned with the prostate).

Well, it wasn’t only beans in that we came home with mature zucchinis which we are likely to bake and eat like winter squash, and watermelons too. And corn, lots of red butcher corn. We left in the garden to finish maturing the most gorgeous pumpkins and cushaws too. Thrilled about those. But as this is too long already, and since I said pressured beans were best, here is a recipe for wonderful, non-pressured green beans!

Baked Green Beans

a mess of fresh, pretty green beans
string them but don’t break them

put in baking dish with generous butter and basil and a dollop of sour cream in middle. Cover and bake at 350 for maybe 40 minutes. They should still be firm, almost a stir-fry consistency although they are good in a wide variety of done-ness-es.


Anonymous said...

How do you pressure can shellie beans? I have 2 large rows to be canned very soon. My mother used to can them, but I have no idea. I have a pressure canner. Thank you.

CG said...

Disclaimer first: I am not the USDA. Thank goodness.

We like to shell them fairly green. The drier they are, the fewer you put in a jar, not more than 3/4 when they are very green. Then cover with boiling water, add salt at 1 tsp/quart, and pressure can at 15# for 35 minutes I believe it is.