The amazing abundance of green beans

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By Steve LaRue

By The Staff

 Green beans amaze me. Yes, you probably know by now that I am easily amazed, but green beans are pretty wondrous especially when it comes time to pick them. They grow in such abundance on Groundhog Hill.

Before I pick them, though, I have to weed them because, as I’ve mentioned, there’s a lot of beautiful grass in the garden this year. So, prior to plucking the beans from the plant, I have to pluck tufts of grass that literally surround the beans. This makes for slow-going.

I find the sheer number of actual beans per plant to be remarkable. We could solve world hunger if we, as a planet, grew more green beans. This is actually what I think about when I pick beans. They are the solution to something, I just know it. More importantly, I am filled with a sense of gratitude that such a plant exists that provides so much with so very little needed to nurture it.

My father swears by Top Crop, so that is what I plant, as well. Sure, you could go with Half-Runner or Roma, but it’s Top Crop for this writer/gardener/yard boy.

Picking beans requires a strong back and after a few minutes, I find myself straightening up from a crouch mid-pick and yelling, “Mother!”, because I can’t believe how much my back hurts and I wonder how my mother did it all those years.  

A family legend is well known amongst us LaRues, wherein, one morning Mom was bent over picking beans and a pet cat jumped up on her back, mid-pick, and stayed there. Not much could ruffle my mother so she (with cat) kept on picking beans.

Once the beans are picked, I turn them over to Dad who is an expert bean-breaker. All he needs is a piece of newspaper strewn above his lap and a bowl, and he can go to town sitting on the back porch and breaking them in half or thirds with surprising agility for one with 94-year-young hands.

Next up is cleaning the beans, and here’s where the weather’s effect on the beans is most evident: They are covered in grass (from where I either mowed, weed-eated or plucked). So, into the kitchen sink they go, and I believe International Law states that they must be washed three separate times with three separate basins of cold, clean water in order to proclaim them “cook-worthy.”  

This is an absolute, Do Not Break, rule of prepping green beans. There is a penalty for violating this rule, but I am too scared to break it to find out exactly what it might be.

Finally comes the cooking, and the recipe I follow is one I like to call, “Cooking Them To Death,” whereby, you place the beans in a pot, cover almost entirely with water, add salt, cubed jowl bacon and bacon fat, cover, and boil the daylights out of them for two hours.  

Another absolute rule of cooking green beans is Do Not Stir. I am well aware of the penalty for violating this rule as it usually involves a bossy sister being bossy.

 Sure, I could blanche them in boiling water then sautee in olive oil and garlic, but that might be too innovative for Dad. Soon though, it will be time to haul out the canner and the quart jars and start putting them up for winter when we shall have an abundance of green beans. I sure hope you do, too.

More later from Groundhog Hill.

Contact Steve at StephenJLaRue@aol.com or check out his webpage, www.groundhoghill.wordpress.com, to see more photos of the garden.