Friday, May 21, 2010
Harvesting Blue Lake Green Beans
I harvested the first of my green beans today! Those heavy storms we had over the weekend and earlier this week, one after the other, pretty much had beat them up, and they were near about laid over in the garden, so I figured it was time to check them. A couple of good waterings from Mother Nature can work wonders for plant growth over spigot watering I'm telling ya!
Just a few ounces under a pound of them for now, but most of them came out of the first square I planted, with a few extracted out of the one I planted a week later. I've got another two squares planted weeks apart that will come in at different times, so between that and the continued production on the plants I just picked from, hopefully there will be plenty more. Green beans are one of my most favorite veggies, so easy to grow and nutritious to eat, so seeing them in the garden makes me happy! I'll probably prepare this batch for the freezer unless I decide to cook some of them up for supper tonight - maybe some southern style green beans with potatoes, since The Cajun loves them cooked that way so much.
It's not always easy to tell when a green bean is ready to be picked because there's a fine line between being too young, ripe and overripe. Well, at least we don't have to string 'em anymore is all I can say, thanks to the improvements made in the bean itself. When it gets close to time for harvesting, just check your beans regularly and pick as they mature to keep your plants productive. Harvest when it's warm and dry though, so that you don't disturb wet foliage and take a chance on spreading bacterial blight, a disease that will cause serious damage to bean plants. Generally speaking, look for them to be right about the thickness of a small pencil, and somewhere between 4 to 6 inches in length. The bean should be fresh looking, plump, firm, with a velvety feel, and be a bright green color. Don't wait until they are bulging in the pod, because by then they are overripe and not very tasty.
I prefer to use kitchen shears to cut them off of the plant, since the branches of the bean plant are a bit delicate and can bend easily if you try to pull or snap the beans off. Scissors are just so much easier.
Store, without rinsing, in green bags (love those) or regular food storage bags, in the crisper for about a week or so. Wash them just before preparing them to eat. Beans can be canned, or pickled, and are an excellent candidate for freezing, which is what I do with them. You can blanch and freeze them whole or cut them up into bite size pieces. Blanching will kill bacteria and stop the ripening process, but blanch only about a pound at a time by dropping them into a pot of water that is at a full rolling boil, cover them and then boil for 4 minutes. Remove with a spider and transfer immediately to a large pot of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well and lay out on a thick towel until fully dry, then flash freeze on a lightly sprayed baking sheet, until frozen. Transfer to a large, zippered freezer bag, removing as much air as possible. Double bag to avoid freezer burn or, even better, use a vacuum sealer.
Smaller beans are more tender and can be eaten raw with a dip, or added to a salad. They can be steamed, boiled, or stir-fried and seasoned with salt, pepper, butter, cooked and crumbled bacon, with a variety of herbs, especially chopped parsley, or even sprinkled with cheese. They are an excellent addition to soups, stews and to mix in with other veggies, and leftover beans are great to marinade in Italian dressing for a salad, or to use as a sandwich relish. Be sure to check out some of my recipes over at Deep South Dish.
For more about Blue Lake Bush Green Beans click right here. To read about my square foot gardening adventures, or check up on my Topsy Turvy, click right here.
And last, I am a simple home gardener, struggling through my failures and relishing in my successes. If you are thinking I am any kind of expert, you might want to read this little ole disclaimer right here.
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