Saturday, June 2, 2012

Green Bean Season

The season for green beans has arrived. We are picking more than we can eat, and have been sharing them with friends. Our first planting this season is ‘Contender,’ and it would certainly vie for the blue ribbon at any county fair. Pods remain stringless even when they are a bit overmature. Nevertheless, for best quality, these should be picked when they are about 3/8 inch in diameter and 6 inches long for perfect snap beans.
We also tried picking smaller specimens, about the diameter of a pencil and 4-5 inches in length. These were excellent when steamed briefly, but become mushy if even slightly overcooked.
Contender is a brown-seeded green bean, which is a good indicator of its value as an early crop. Brown seeds tend not to react so negatively to cool soil as do white bean seeds. But this year, we had warmth so early it hardly made any difference. Our second planting ‘Fantastic Filet’ is coming right along on the heels of Contender. This bean is intended for “haricots verts” or baby beans, and should be picked when about 3/16 inch in diameter. Trim the stem ends and steam them whole for about a minute. Do not overcook.
Savory, The Bean Herb
If you have never grown summer savory and you like green beans, you have missed out on a treat. We grew savory for the first time this year. It was easy to produce from seed. We started the plants indoors under lights in early April, maintaining them in four-inch pots until they were about 6 inches tall. At transplant time, we pinched out the main growth point to encourage bushiness.  Shortly after transplanting to the herb bed a couple of weeks ago, they enjoyed a burst of growth, and we now have all the fresh leaves we need. Savory has a flavor reminiscent of thyme, but different. A tablespoon of chopped fresh leaves can be added to two tablespoons of melted butter for the perfect sauce for steamed green beans. Also try adding it to the pot when you cook green beans “Southern style” with added pork fat and a cooking time of half an hour or more. The flavor of savory somehow just makes green beans taste better.
Savory can be added to any herb blend where thyme would be at home, and is often included in Herbes de Provence. Use it interchangeably with sage when making dressing or sausage.

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