I really like green beans. I like planting them and I like eating them fresh from the garden.
Beans do well in warm weather and, outside of watering, are a foolproof and kid-friendly variety to help to instill a love of gardening that has continued to this day.
One of my first memories of gardening are of my grandfather allowing us kids to buy a seed package of Kentucky Wonder green beans to plant in a corner of his garden.
Those beans were a pole variety, meaning that they grew as a vine and you had to rig a line or put a tomato cage around the plants so the vines had somewhere to run.
I still remember going out to pick the first handful of beans.
After the plants bloomed, we had to wait patiently – for daaaaaays – in order for the beans to grow to at least four inches long before picking.
Now, picking beans is like a scavenger hunt: the plant’s leaves are just big enough to cover most of the bean so that you might be able to see just the last quarter-inch or so. You might have to go over the plant a couple of times, lifting up the soft, Velcro-textured leaves each time, in order to discover those last elusive beans.
This year, I planted a bush variety in three containers, three plants per pot. The beans have been coming in for about a week now and I finally have enough to prepare. (Usually, you never have enough beans ready the first time through to make a meal. No problem, just toss the freshly picked beans in a plastic bag and store in the freezer until you have enough to fix.)
I love the beans lightly sautéed in a combination of olive oil, butter and garlic. They remain crisp and crunchy and I find them more flavorful.
Traditionally, though, boiling the beans is the way to go.
After washing the beans, you snap off the ends and then snap the beans in to bite-size pieces and place them in a pot, cover with water, a little bit of salt, put the lid on the pot and bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook until tender.
Grandma would season her beans with a piece of pork (fatback); Shari seasons hers with a piece of smoked turkey or ham.
This year, I think I’ll try pickling some of the beans or mix some up in a green salad.
And around the first week of August, I’ll put in another couple of hills of beans to get me through the fall.
Pickled Green Beans
About 1 lb green beans, or enough to fill a medium mason jar
2 tbsp dill seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1/2-1 tbsp kosher salt
6 garlic cloves (or more)
1 cup white vinegar
Wash the green beans and trim off the bottom and the top ends. Blanch beans until just tender.
Stand blanched beans up in a mason jar.
Add the spices, salt, and garlic cloves. Add the vinegar and then fill the jar to just under the neck with water.
Close the jar tightly and shake well to dissolve the salt.
Place the jar in the refrigerator. Pickled beans will be ready to eat in three to five days.
2 medium potatoes
2 cups green beans
2 cups mixed greens
1 cup cherry tomatoes
4 ounces cheese (pick a crumbly favorite: blue, manchego, feta, etc.)
Aioli (homemade mayonnaise, recipe below) or your favorite vinaigrette dressing
Wash the potatoes and beans. Cut the potatoes into half-inch discs and boil in salted water until just tender.
Blanch the green beans.
Boil the eggs. Cool then remove shell and cut boiled eggs in half.
On a large serving platter, arrange the mixed greens, boiled potatoes, green beans and eggs. Add cherry tomatoes and cheese and serve with a small bowl of dressing (used either as a traditional salad dressing or as a dip for the vegetables).
2 garlic cloves
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Mince and mash garlic and salt until a paste forms.
Whisk together egg yolk, lemon juice and mustard in a bowl.
Combine the oils and add, a few drops at a time, to egg mixture, whisking constantly, until all of the oil is incorporated and emulsified.
Whisk in garlic paste and season with salt and pepper. If aioli is too thick, add 1 or 2 drops of water.