There's nothing more romantic than shelling beans! Seriously.
I know you're all thinking about Valentine's Day Eve and how a trip to Maiden Rock and Lake View Organic Farm on February 13th is going to make it the most wonderful day ever, but I don't have time for that this minute. I'm all about beans right now. Reflecting, reminiscing, remembering fondly...I'm in love with beans - dry beans that is.
First of all, raise your hand if you're like me and you can only eat fresh garden beans once or twice a summer and somehow they begin to feel too rich and heavy? Corn on the cob does the same thing - I can typically only eat one ear a year and I'm full. Weird, I know. But, dried beans are the total opposite. Put a pot of bean soup in front of me, and I will founder. There is no off button! I can make a pot of bean soup and eat it breakfast, lunch and dinner...for weeks on end (Not the same pot, of course!). Weird, I know.
Now, how many of you plant green beans, get tired of eating them, so by virtue, get tired of picking them also? That's me! But what I have learned over the years of gardening is that if the right variety is planted, those durned beans can be left, hauled out of the garden, procrastinator style, in the latest of the late season, and used for dry beans in winter soup. Then, if you're like me, you'll have a love affair with your winter bean stash, and won't for a second remember feeling guilty that you didn't get all the beans picked. Perfect for a lazy gardener!
Of course, shelling them really isn't much fun unless you have some good background noise for mindless behavior, or are presently teaching 5th grade. Fifth grade, you ask. What does that have to do with beans? Well, one of my favorite "teachable" moments was the day I brought a huge bin of unshelled beans to my classroom thinking that the students might get a kick out of helping me shell them. I always tried to find ways to make our "Morning Work" interesting, and selfishly figured I could take advantage of "many hands make light the work."
Well, little did I know the beans would be such a HUGE hit amongst fifth graders. Not only did they love the tactile experience of shelling beans, but they had questions! Since we had iPads and computers in the classroom, the kids spontaneously formed research teams some interested in learning about bean varieties, bush vs. vining, what's GMO anyway?, heirloom and how to cook the hard little buggers. Before we knew it, we had blown through Morning Work, Morning Meeting and a good chunk of Reader's Workshop that day sharing what we learned about beans. In the last fizzle of bean fun that day, I promised to bring some of the beans the next day cooked for snack.
I really didn't think the students would be that crazy about eating the beans, but nonetheless, I cooked about two pounds of the Hidatsas the students had shelled wanting to show those who may be interested how beans could be cooked ahead and then frozen for later meals. Low and behold, thirty bowls and a few bags of chips later, the beans were gone. Every. Last. One. Devoured.
SO, WHAT ARE MY FAVORITE BEANS?
A lovely heirloom yellow wax bean was my first bean love. The first year I grew these, I kept up with the picking for a couple of weeks, but as is the relationship with beans, I soon got bored. That's when I discovered that not only was it delicious at its summer peak, but when left after picking-boredom set in, they dried to a wonderful white bean. I only meant to save seed, but ended up with a couple of pounds, so test kitchen open, decided to cook them up. Tuscan Bean Soup from my dried yellow wax bean relinquished all guilt I felt for ignoring them earlier in the summer!
Another favorite is a North Dakota Native heirloom called Hidatsa (in the photo above). This is a runner bean with pretty orange flowers that I grow on the fencing around the garden in between other climbers (cukes or tomatoes), and in the late fall, when I put the last touches on bedding the garden before snow, I pull all the pods to shell on a cold winter day. This bean looks like a flat almost square kidney bean but cooks up like a creamy pinto, so finds its way into my winter chilis.
Christmas pole beans are a favorite for the HUGE speckled beans that make a mean baked bean, hearty soup or pizzazz on a salad. I've dabbled in a variety of Asian long beans that dry to resemble the black turtle bean, and garbanzos both white and black grow well in my Wisconsin garden if I can get them before the mice do.
I just got my new seed order in the mail the other day, and beans continue to be a great addition to my "Lazy Person" garden! I can take what I want when they are fresh, then ignore them to the bitter end and they still give LOVE! Ah, beans, beans, the magical fruit...
BUT HOW NOT TO TOOT?
Beans need to be washed. Wash them before you cook them, wash them mid way through cooking and wash them after they are done cooking. Washing them helps diminish whatever it is that can cause some people to experience gas from beans. What do I mean by washing? Simply add water to the bean pot, swish it around, then dump it off. Repeat.
We are looking forward to seeing you all at Lake View Organic Farm on Saturday, February 13th as you travel your Tiny Town Fun Itinerary for the day! We're going to be open 10-2 with a bonfire, hot chai, farm jabber and lots of new products in the store meant to fulfil your every Valentine's Day need.
Finding all the little things to love,