A friend, growing a garden for the first time, was insistent upon one vegetable he wanted: beans. His mother, it turns out, always grows beans in her garden, and one of his fondest childhood memories is sitting in the garden, snacking on raw green beans as she worked alongside him.
So beans went into his tiny garden - some from a packet of seeds we bought, and others from a packet his mother sent.
Now there are beans and more beans, so many beans they grew long and tough on the plant and turned flaccid from overlong refrigeration.
The true Southern method of cooking beans is for a long time with a bit of salt pork, ham hock or fat back, maybe with new potatoes. But we snapped the ends off, dressed them with a bit of butter and fresh lemon juice, and cooked them briefly, covered, until they had turned a brilliant bean-green. We ate them all.
Snap beans, also called string beans, are a good source of vitamin A, riboflavin and minerals. And the fresher the better. At the market, choose beans that are evenly green, and on the small side. The beans should feel soft but not flabby.
At home, use them as soon as possible, but keep them, unwashed, for three or four days, in a paper bag.
Country Cooked Green Beans With New Potatoes
Adapted from “Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken: The Heart and Soul of Southern Country Kitchens,” (Atlantic Monthly Press)
8 cups green beans
1/4 pound salt pork
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
8 medium new potatoes
Rinse beans well and put in a large, heavy pot with a lid. Rinse salt pork, then cover beans with water and add the piece of salt pork. Bring to a boil, then cover, turn down heat, and let simmer rapidly for one hour. Check pot occasionally and add water if beans start to boil dry.
After an hour, taste the bean broth and add salt and sugar to taste, if needed. Stir to mix salt in well, then put the new potatoes (rinsed well, but with their skins still on) on top of the beans. Cover and let simmer again for another hour.
Yield: 8 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 284 calories, 4 grams protein, 36 grams carbohydrate, 14 grams fat, 15 milligrams cholesterol, 91 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.