Last night, hubby and I sat down to one of our favorite garden-inspired meals – ham, garden green beans, and new potatoes. This one-skillet meal is easy to prepare and has a down-home flavor that leaves us with few leftovers.
I prepare this classic bean dish a bit different than our grandmothers. I start by browning the new potatoes and ham in a small amount of olive oil along with diced pepper and onion (both from the garden as well). When these are nearly done, I add young, tender pole green beans.
Unlike the boiled-in-a-pot version of this dish from our grandparent’s era, my garden green beans have a bright, crisp texture. I’m sure the shorter cooking times create a healthier entrée as fewer vitamins are lost to leaching. Browning the new potatoes in a hash-brown style enhances their flavor as well.
Growing Pole Beans in the Garden
I believe the real key to making this dish exceptional is the use of young, tender garden green beans. Like many veggies, store-bought green beans don’t retain the flavor and freshness of those grown in the home garden. Unless you’re buying frozen, you’re not apt to find young beans at the local chain grocery store.
I pick my pole green beans as soon as they reach the desired length, but before they begin to fill out. They tend to be fairly thin and will lose moisture quickly if not used or frozen shortly after harvest. This reduction in shelf life limits the commercial availability of fresh young green beans to mainly farmer’s markets, roadside stands, and CSA deliveries.
The point being, if you want the guarantee of fresh young green beans for cooking and preserving, you pretty much want to grow them in the garden. Luckily, both bush and pole green beans are one of the easiest crops to cultivate. Additionally, young green beans freeze well and retain their color and texture when thawed.
Discovering My Favorite Pole Bean Variety
As gardeners, we all have our favorites when it comes to veggie varieties. I’ve been growing pole beans in the garden for several years and have tried different types and varieties from yellow wax to flat Italian green beans. However, I think those days are coming to an end.
This year, I chose Kentucky Blue pole green beans and let me say, I’m quite impressed. I’m getting a bumper crop of long, very straight green beans. In the past I’ve harvested more than my share of kinky, curly beans. These are fine for dishes made with fresh produce, but to save precious storage space in the freezer, I prefer veggies that are a consistent size and shape.