Overgrown Rattlesnake pole beans (love these beans!)
This post is a nod to my good friend Ed.
One of the reasons I grow my own is because it opens up a world of vegetative goodness that I could not otherwise attain. (Lest you think this is merely a condition of living in the boonies, I can assure you my city garden likewise yielded riches not so easily gotten at the myriad co-ops or snooty stores near my home.) And shelly beans definitely qualify as vegetative goodness.
Glass of wine and turkey companionship optional, but helpful
Shell beans, shelling beans, shelly beans: there is a point somewhere between the spectrum of green (mange-tout) and dried beans that is a chef’s dream. They’re certainly THIS home cook’s dream. And as a point of absolution for you less-than-attentive gardeners, shelly beans are akin to making more than lemonade of lemons: think a fine dessert wine from lemons instead. Say you just happen to have ignored your pole green beans for a few days, and now…they’re quite swollen, showing their growing seeds, pregnant little bumps all in a row. Harvest them. Sit down with a glass of wine and shell them. Eaten raw, they’re an unpromising crunch of starch. But you need to get out a shallot or two, a glug of olive oil or big pat of butter or flavorful animal fat, a small saucepan, and get cooking. Sweat the shallot, then add the beans, covering them with some broth or some water to almost cover. Cook them until you consider them “done,” and then plate them up with some chopped fresh parsley, some toasted breadcrumbs, maybe a squeeze of lemon…a bit of heaven on your plate.
Many beans are eaten as shell beans: Limas, butterbeans, and favas are in this category. Before you sneer and say that you think limas are abhorrent, I think they are too unless they’re garden-fresh. Lots of vegetables are this way and it’s yet another reason to garden, quite frankly: garden and get rid of your food prejudices! But most other beans can qualify as shell beans too.
Oh, and ALL beans can be eaten as dry beans. Just like most garden vegetables, there are some that are “best” as fresh, shell, or dried; I have eaten the tiny dried brown beans of “Maxibel” haricot vert beans, for example, though it was a huge effort. But frankly I can’t think of any other vegetable that has such nascent variety, can you?