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2009 Farmer's Market Poster

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Edible Island: Bean Time on Bainbridge
By Carolyn Goodwin

It’s September, and the Bainbridge Farmers’ Market is full of beans. Romano, Dragon Tongue, Scarlet Runners; the names are as colorful as the beans themselves. The colors range from soft yellow to the darkest purple. But all too soon they’ll be gone. So enjoy them now, and put some aside until bean time comes again.

Each bean variety has a very different personality. Tiny haricots vert will put up with only the gentlest of cooking and are best alone or in salads, while the sturdier pole beans like Dragon Tongue and Scarlet Runner can be used in braises and stews. Wax beans have a mild flavor, while the Scarlet Runners taste bold and beany.

Whatever the variety, the most important qualities are age and freshness. They need to be picked at their prime, and cooked soon after harvest. They’ll keep for several days in the fridge. After that, they’re a snap to freeze and they hold their quality very well. They're so easy going, those beans; you can steam, boil, sauté and bake them, and they always come out nice as long as you don’t overcook them.

Tender, small beans like haricots vert make fabulous summer salads. Snap off the stem end, steam or boil them until tender (3 – 5 minutes, depending on size), then just toss them with some toasted nuts (hazelnuts, pine nuts, or almonds), some halved cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs like parsley or thyme, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Eat it hot, or cool. They’re also great in this simple salad with roasted garlic and Dijon. Or pair them with sea scallops in a main course salad

Barbara Kingsolver blends cooked beans to make a dippy green bean spread in her amazing new book, Animal, Vegetable Miracle. If you have any doubt about the importance and benefits of eating locally, her book will forever erase them. Her website  is full of recipes and resources for sustainable eating.

Beans make the quintessential summer side dish, and you need do nothing more than snap off the stem end, boil or steam, and serve. Any shape, color, or size works this way, it’s just the cooking time that differs. It can vary from 3 to 7 minutes. So throw some extras in the pot to give you enough to taste as they go. Cook until they’re a tad less done than you want, then drain. They’ll continue to cook until you get them on the table, so don’t dawdle. Add a drizzle of olive oil, some chopped nuts, crumbled goat cheese, some sautéed shallots, or a sprinkle of fresh herbs if you want to get fancy.

You can also build a meal around beans. Pick up some of the sweet small clams available at the Market from Baywater, Inc., and make a clam and green bean pasta. One of my favorite food bloggers (you have to see her photos) came up with a great sauté with snap beans and beef. And here’s an easy recipe with halibut.

Beans are plentiful and perfect right now, so buy extra and freeze them. They are one of the easiest veggies to freeze. Just briefly blanch them (3 minutes) in boiling water, plunge them into cold water, drain and blot dry, and put them in the freezer (see freezing details here). Then you can pull them out all winter long to bring back the taste of bean time.

© 2009 Bainbridge Farmers Market