Monday, July 15, 2013

Beans by Any Other Name



 
Bean plants before the zukes grew, produced and collapsed
Our beans have begun to come in – a great blessing, in my books, because I love French green beans, those slim little things that look like they were cradle-robbed from the plant. I’ve planted loads of beans over the years – bush, climbing, semi-climbing (which means they reach about 2 feet tall and need some help unless you don’t mind them sprawling all over their neighboring veggie plants), Providers, Blue Lake, Kentucky Blue, Romanos, Burgundy, Scarlet Runners, Asparagus beans (which, frankly, I don’t like), Sunset Runners, Jacobs cattle, Tiger’s Eye and Yin/Yang (the last three are shell  beans, i.e. drying beans, and they’re delicious). Among others. I’ve spent years searching for what I consider to be THE best French green bean aka Haricot Vert. I thought I had it when I found Cook’s Garden Seeds’ French green beans (bush) but didn’t find them there this year. Instead, I got Burpee’s French Filet bean, which, since Burpee bought Cook’s a while back, is probably the same bean. A reliable producer, the slim, tender beans stay slim and tender for several days, even if you miss a day’s picking. And they stay fresh for days in the frig when stuffed dry into a plastic bag and kept in the crisper.

Haricots verts and shallots in the frying pan
They’re  so delicious done in a host of different ways. The very first handful get eaten right in the garden, because usually I’m out there with the dog before breakfast and I’m hungry, so I forage. Right after that, I bring in the first picked batch and steam them for lunch. I chuck in a little sliced onion and mix up a little dressing of half olive oil mayo and half horseradish. Yummy.  For supper, I throw them into a frying pan shimmering with a skim of olive oil and sauté them with a sliced shallot, some halved cherry tomatoes (which are also coming in nicely right now, though the early blight’s gettin’ to ‘em), a smashed and chopped clove of fresh hardneck garlic, some fresh oregano or Cuban basil or both, and salt and pepper. Delicious with any kind of meat. If you’re cooking fish, you can just throw the fish in on top of this veggie concoction when it’s half-cooked, splash in a little white wine and you’ve got dinner in about 15 minutes.

After we’ve eaten beans those three ways, I go on to hunt for new recipes -- or at least creatively (and deliciously of course) try to use up what other potential ingredients I have hanging around in the frig. The other day, I had some leftover slices of prosciutto that I chopped threw into the frying pan along with the beans, tomatoes, shallot and basil. Sort of on the order of old-fashioned beans stewed with a ham hock, but crisper, quicker, healthier (I’m assuming) and MUCH better tasting.
Filet beans with tomatoes and prosciutto

This year I got smart and ordered a double batch of bean seeds and plan to get a second batch planted within the next week or so. The bush beans are usually ready to pick at about 55 days or so -- longer  more if you plant them now, but still,  they’ll produce beans for fall, with some leftover for the freezer. Winter vegetable soups. Haricots verts, French filet beans, green snaps, it doesn’t really matter what you call them. A bean by any other name still tastes just as good. 

4 comments:

  1. Nancy,

    Mary and I searched for a French Filet bean also and settled on Jade which has been around for a while and is available at most Southern States or Meyers Seed in Baltimore. It's not quite as slender as a true filet bean, but pretty close. Here's Park's seed description of Jade.

    60 days. One of the best-tasting beans we've ever grown in our trials! These upright plants harvest easily, bearing plenty of long, round, straight pods of rich green. The 6- to 7-inch pods are stringless and set seeds slowly, which extends the harvest time nicely. Plants are resistant to many diseases, including Common Bean Mosaic, Curly Top Virus, and Rust.

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    1. Great, Mary. Thanks for the tip. I grew jade years ago and it freezes well and also makes nice pickled dilly beans for snacks. Will be interested to hear what you do with it!

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  2. Nancy,
    Those pictures inspire me! I'm looking forward to dinner and it's not even lunch time yet!

    I made a dish for July 4th with green and purple beans. They were young and tender. I marinated them, uncooked, in Kalamata olive juice, sliced Kalamata olives, olive oil, S&P, fresh marjoram & savory. Everyone was so surprised by the great taste and the fact that the beans weren't cooked. The purple beans would lose their color if cooked so I just gave it a try and it worked!

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    1. Sounds terrific, particularly for right now when we don't want any burners on in the kitchen.

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