Thursday, September 22, 2011

Late Summer Green Bean Harvest Abundant

Wow! Jerry picked about two gallons of beans from a single 3-pole teepee yesterday afternoon. The warm days, cool nights and abundant rain gave us a bumber crop. The cultivar is "Dwarf Horticultural" obtained from our local seed company, Mayo's. The vines are half-runners and would have done better on wire tomato cages than on the poles we gave them this year, but you live and learn. The only problem resulting from inadequate support was that some of the lower beans were curved due to touching the ground. With a better trellis, nearly all the pods would grow straight, about eight inches long.

This bean variety has a long history here in East Tennessee. Also known as "October beans," it is well-adapted to the late-season conditions here. Although delicious as a green bean before the pods swell, most gardeners allow some pods to almost ripen before picking. The harvest, when prepared for cooking, will yeild both green beans and "shellies," almost mature, brownish seeds.

These beans need the "country style" treatment in the kitchen, i.e., long cooking. This is necessary to tenderize the pods and fully cook the matured seeds. October beans are traditionally cooked with bacon, ham hocks or salt pork. They are equally good in a vegan rendition. Here's my recipe:

Vegan Country-Style October Beans

2 quarts October beans, trimmed, strings removed and broken into one-inch pieces
1/2 a medium onion, chopped, about 3/4 cup
2 teaspoons canola oil
6 cups vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Saute the onion in the oil until it begins to color. Add the stock and the beans. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and boil gently over medium low heat until the beans are tender, about 45 minutes to one hour. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve immediately as a side or cool to room temperature, then pack into 2-cup freezer containers and freeze for up to 6 months. 

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