Monday, June 7, 2010

You Know, I Love GREEN BEANS and HAM! I Do, I Love Them, Ma’am I Am!!

There’s nothing quite so promising as the bright green ‘flags’ that green beans send up in springtime! Throughout the dark, rainy days of pre-Spring, when the air hints at warmth only to deliver a cold slice of ‘Sorry!--still Winter!’; and your windowsill flats are showing not much more than tentative pale green loops pushing up through the potting soil, you kept hoping for full-blown green plants—and now here they are!

1.) started your plants—perhaps as your childrens’ school project (the “bean seed in a paper cup” thing)—and went on to plant half a cardboard-milk-carton-with-the-requisite-holes-in-the-bottom- covered-by coffee-filters-(you knew that!)-and-filled-with-potting-soil.

2.) made several lines in the soil with a popsicle stick or a spoon handle or whatever, and planted your bean seeds twice their own depth.

3.) even let them lie down in the rows, and didn’t stand them on end. They have a lot of work to do, you knew, and deserve all the rest they could get!

4.) kept them in the sunniest window you could find, and when there was none, you kept them under a lamp, for warmth. Some of you even put the carton on tope of your refrigerator, where it’s nice and warm. (Beans hate cold feet!)

Now they’re up, and you deserve a pat on the back! Maybe two or three.

When that fleeting glimpse of sunshine out there becomes a real item, and the ground starts to stay warm even at night—well, anyway, when the threat of frost is absolutely past—plant out your little bean plants.

Put them about 4”-6” apart, and provide something for them to climb on: a trellis, some strings tied to small, rust-proof nails along a wooden fence or shed, or even some brushwood—this could be big twigs cut off the bushes in front, some reeds cut near the bayou (if you have a bayou or a klong), a piece of the latticework that people use to cover the naked knees of houses, or whatever you can think of as a trellis. Even chain link fencing makes a good trellis for climbing veggies and flowers. Use what you have.

A few caveats:

Never pick green beans before the morning dew evaporates. This encourages molds and mildew, a nasty grey powdery stuff that kills your vines. You and I want nice, healthy plants, don’t we? Of course we do. Planting flowers beside the vines encourages beneficial insects like bees, ladybird beetles and other Good Guys who will pollinate your bean blossoms, giving you more veggies per vines, as well as eating aphids and other Nasties.

Beans, like peas, are legumes, and are nitrogen-fixing. This means that they collect nitrogen from the air and lock it into the soil, where it is available as fertilizer for heavy feeders like sweet corn. I always plant corn the following year where I had beans or peas this year, so I can take advantage of God’s goodness to us, even in the plants He created. Remember, back ‘way before the European, African and Oriental immigrants flooded these shores, the Native Americans used to plant corn, beans and squash together (they called them ‘the Three Sisters.) The corn provided a ‘trellis’ for the beans to grow on, the beans fertilized the soil for the corn and squash, and the squash shaded the roots of the corn and beans, keeping them cool and moist. It’s a good example of brilliant eco-planning, and we would be wise to emulate it.

Here’s a good old Deep South recipe for green beans. It’s not elegant, but it is delicious, and children usually come back asking for ‘second helpings’ whenever I make it. It goes like this:


2 # fresh green beans
I large ham bone with some meat still on it
the more, the better; OR
1 # chunk ham, sliced Kielbasa, or hot dogs
1 tsp each salt and ground black pepper
4-6 large potatoes
1 large onion
2-3 Tbsps oil
2-3 qts water


Wash, string and snap the beans. Strings and top ends go into the comport container. Reserve. Peel and dice onion finely. Wash the potatoes and remove the ‘eyes.’ Peel if you like, but remember that the skin has a great deal of Vitamin C in it. Do as you like about peeling them. Cut them in half lengthwise, into two flat ovals. Reserve in cold water.


In a large, heavy Dutch Oven or pot, heat the oil and sauté the onions until the sweat. Add the green beans, the ham bone and the water. Turn the heat to medium low, partially cover with the lid, and cook for about two or three hours, or until the beans are totally limp and just don’t care anymore. The meat should be falling off the bones, and the fragrance should have pervaded the house. Add your potatoes, and cook for another fifteen minutes or until a fork pierces the potato without resistance. Add salt and pepper. Remove from heat.


With big squares of good cornbread covered with thin lashings of molasses, and big glasses of ice-cold milk. Better serve it in a soup bowl and eat it with a spoon, because that ‘pot liquor’ is too good to miss! If you have any left over, put it in your Soup Makings container in the freezer. Yum!

PS: Even my toddlers loved the pot-liquor-soaked cornbread. If the children want to soak their cornbread in the pot liquor, let them!—even if it has molasses on it. They’re only children once (well, maybe more, because don’t be surprised if your husband wants to eat it that way, too!) Try it and see!

Remember to let me know what you think of the recipes, and of the blog in general! If there is something you’ve always wanted to cook, or grow, or both, let me know and I’ll do a post on it. This is a gift from me to you, and as with all gifts, I’d like it to be something you really want.

Thanks, and God love you!


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