Sunday, 25 March 2012

Spill the Beans!

Last week, the first day of spring was uplifting. Reportedly, the hottest day ever recorded where I live in Canada.  When I was growing up I looked forward to Spring.  My dad used to dig up a small garden patch, one for my sister and one for myself.  We took great pride in growing our own vegetables.  The first seeds we would sow were beans.  We grew three types at my house; green beans, Hungarian yellow wax beans, and pole beans.  One of favourite childhood fairy tales was ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ and I always hoped my beans were as magical as Jack’s.  When Dad built a tripod around our purple martin bird house, I always thought those pole beans that grew up and filled the space could make it as high into the sky as Jack’s.  Just as magical, they produced beautiful scarlet flowers and eventually beans. 

All varieties of beans are planted in the same way with the eye facing downward in the soil, since the eye is where the root will emerge.  Seeds should be planted once there is no risk of frost.  Kids love gardening and watching a seed sprout and turn into a plant is exciting.   Even if you are an apartment dweller your kids can grow beans.  Here’s how you do it:

Place a piece of folded paper towel that you have moistened, around the inside of a clear drinking glass or a small jar.  Arrange a few bean seeds half way up the inside of the glass so that they are positioned in between the moist paper towel and the glass.  Add a small amount of water to the jar so that the paper towel stays wet.  Keep it in a warm place.    The seeds will sprout in about one day. Once that happens you can take them off of the paper towel and then plant them into a pot of soil. Be careful when doing this so that you do not break off the root.  Place it where it will get sunlight.  Water your plant every day. Watch your bean sprout grow into a beautiful green plant and hopefully provide some beans to eat.  

If you don’t have a garden make sure you   purchase fresh organic beans from your local market or grocer.    Make sure that they are firm and not withered in appearance.  When beans are young they are tender and require very little cooking time.  At this stage they are also good raw, tossed into a salad. The following recipe is one of my favourites.  

Grandma’s Yellow or Green String Bean Soup
4 c of chicken broth
1 lb fresh string beans cut into one inch pieces
2-3 potatoes peeled and cubed           
2 small onions chopped
3 tblsp butter
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 tsp paprika
3 tblsp flour
1/2   cup cold water
1/4   cup chopped dill
1/4   cup vinegar
  salt and pepper to taste

Heat the chicken broth in a large 3 1/2 quart saucepan. Add the beans and onions and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender but still firm. Heat the butter in a 1 quart saucepan. Add the garlic and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the paprika and flour with a spatula. Slowly blend in the cold water to form a thick paste. Stir the paste into the hot soup and simmer, stirring constantly, until the soup has thickened slightly. Add the vinegar and the dill. Serve hot or cold.

Many people have been turning to beans as an alternative source of protein, as well as for their nutritional value. There are more than 4000 types of beans grown world wide.  Many are used for cooking from a dry state.  Navy beans are a popular dry bean.  We usually associate them with Boston Baked Beans.   The following is my twist on them, using them for a dip.  This is a great recipe that is quick and easy, a nice change from hummus.  Serve it with a tray of fresh veggies or pita.    

White Bean Spread

1 medium garlic clove
6-7 large sage leaves (fresh)
1/4 cup dried tomatoes (or more, depending on your tastes)
1 can of drained navy beans * or cook your own if you like
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons water (more or less, depending on how thick or thin you prefer your spread)
salt & pepper to taste
*a drop or two of hot sauce (optional)
Blend it and chill before serving.

No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow. 

Photo courtesy of my son Dylan.

Stay tuned for next week's blog about fish.


Teri Flatley said...

Gloria, we had a purple martin house too. I would love to have one here, but don't have the right space.

Love the bean column. May try the recipes too!

Ian said...

Gloria — found this article very appropriate considering I’m slowly going vegetarian — have already eliminated chicken and red meat, plus milk, so am working my way towards eating more beans and lentils. This gives me some added inspiration — thanks!

marie said...

Happy to read your lovely memory. I like the beans too.

Tara said...

Love this post! I remember in grade 1 planting beans like this! My dad grew rows and rows on climbers as we called them when we were little! I loved going into our massive vegetable garden to nibble on all the goodies! With the move, we plan to start a garden with our daughter! Great post!!

Anonymous said...

** GucciGirl **
This sounds Delicious!
Can I have some in September


Anonymous said...

Great post - can't wait to read the next one!

Anonymous said...

Great post - can't wait to read the next one!