July 10, 2010 - Green Beans are a snap
Green beans are a staple in Blairsville, Georgia and other southern Appalachian kitchens. They are low in calories (just 43 calories per cup) and packed with vitamins. Green Beans are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, fiber, potassium, manganese, magnesium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, copper, calcium, phosphorus, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and niacin. Adding green beans to the diet on a regular basis can help reduce the threat of heart disease, stoke, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and colon cancer.
Green beans can be prepared in many different ways including cooked alone, in casseroles, or added raw to salads and vegetable platters. Does your family have a favorite green bean recipe?
Fresh green beans are a snap to cook. They can be sautéed, steamed, boiled, and stir-fried. They can be seasoned with salt, pepper, onions, or hot sauce. For variety, many cooks add herbs and spices like basil, garlic, dill, lemon, and rosemary. Green beans are often cooked with lots of salt and added fat (which reduces health benefits).
My mother (Irene Watkins Boling) was adamant about how to prepare green beans. First, they had to be white half- runners grown in partially clay soil. In her opinion, no other type of green bean was fit to eat. She insisted on North Georgia Mountain white half runners. She would not eat a bean from South Georgia or Florida. They also had to be mature enough to have some, but not too many, "shellies" in them (the white seeds). Tough pods were discarded with the strings but seeds were added to the pot.
She washed the beans, strung them, cut away any bug bites, snapped them (broke into bite size pieces), looked them (for missed strings), and put them in a big, heavy pot. She covered them with water, added a good measure of salt, and a tablespoon of Crisco. Then she simmered them all day, covered with a lid, without stirring, until not a drop of water was left in the pot. The last twenty minutes of cooking, she left the lid off and watched the pot constantly so they wouldn't burn. Mom served the beans with whatever was on hand - usually tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, squash, okra, slaw, cornbread, and iced tea.
Fresh green beans are currently available at the Union County Farmer's Market on Saturdays and Wednesdays. They are available in many varieties for every taste. Store fresh green beans in the vegetable crisper part of the refrigerator. Green beans will stay fresh for 3-5 days. Green beans can also be dried (leather britches), canned, and frozen.
Beans are one of the longest-cultivated plants. They have been grown in Thailand for over 9000 years and in the Americas for over 6000 years. Beans have been an important source of protein throughout history. There are over 4,000 cultivars of beans on record in the United States alone!
Pre-Columbian people developed a method of cultivation known as the Three Sisters. Corn was planted in checker board patterns, 4 stalks to every other block. Beans were planted around the base of the corn stalks and squash was planted in the vacant spaces. The beans used the corn as a trellis, squash received shade from the corn, and corn received protection from animals (due to the coarse, hairy squash vines). Green Beans are big part of our heritage!
Everyone is invited to the first Green Bean Festival on July 30 th and 31 st . This free event promises fun for every age. Fresh produce, crafts, going green demos, a Fun Run, beauty pageants, a youth talent show, quilt shows, tractor shows, live entertainment, canning plant tours, kid's games, and good food is on the agenda!
A Green Bean Recipe Contest is scheduled to be held at the Union County Civic Center on Saturday, July 31st at 12:00 noon. Every entry must include green beans as an ingredient. Judges are anticipating a variety of dishes - everything from old favorites to new creations (maybe even green bean cookies).
The Green Bean Festival also features a Canning Contest with 15 categories including tomatoes, other vegetables, fruits, pickles, jellies, sauerkraut, and of course, green beans. Come visit Blairsville, Georgia in Union County and celebrate the green bean!