Today is Saturday, March 25, 2017

String beans

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What do you call them? I've heard of snap beans, shelly beans, pole beans and many more. But my family's name for them was string beans - either because they were long and stringy or because, when they were overripe, they had an annoying fibrous strip in them that had to be removed before they were good to eat.

I picked up my first crop of them the other day and plan to snap them (prepare them for the plot) the next time I sit down to watch television. Our variety is the flat Italian one called "Roma," which is hard to find. They were out of it at the store where I got it early in the spring. I was looking for them to plant a second crop.

One reason there are so many names for the table favorite is because there are so many varieties. The pole beans' name refers to the character of runners which this variety puts out that climb fences or poles which makes picking them much easier than the bush variety which grows close to the ground. There are also runners and half-runners which further complicate the types of growing habitus.

Shelly beans are the ones that get too mature to snap and have to be opened to remove the pea-in-the-pod rather than eating the pod itself. For you city folks who think beans come in a can, the "snap" term refers to the noise the long green fruit makes when you break it into bite-size pieces to prepare it for cooking. The snap means that the beans are fresh, not dried out. There is really something satisfying about hearing that sound as the pan gradually fills up to make a mess of beans. A mess is the amount needed to make a full meal, which can be a handful or a gallon depending on how many are eating and how well they are prepared.

A stick of butter or piece of fat meat cooked to a boil is my favorite for softening and flavoring the delicacy. Green bean casserole made with mushroom soup and baked till they are tender is another enjoyable way to prepare them. I also like them sautéed with a little olive oil and salt if they are young and fresh. Come to think about it, I'm going to stop writing right now and start cooking. I'm getting hungry for some green beans.

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