Rollin’ in the green.

Not that kind of green (don’t I wish!), but the green that comes with the development of the long, delicious pods we call green beans.  The spring harvest is on, and green beans are generally the first to rise to the challenge.

This year we planted Maxibel, which is a slim, long, tender green bush bean, what they call a filet bean or  haricots verts.  We had great success with it last year, but our harvest just didn’t last long enough.  This year we’re succession planting in smaller portions and I think that’s going to be the ticket to enjoying them all season.

One of the most exciting things about green beans is that planting them actually improves your soil.  Green beans and other legumes form nodules on their roots that utilize nitrogen (known as “nitrogen fixing”) and are symbiotic with naturally occurring fungi in the soil.  Since green beans have a short season (lasting only until mid July here in Georgia), planning a fall crop to go in just after green bean harvest is a win-win, as the soil is naturally already fertilized!  And fortunately scientists are paying attention and finding ways to use these nodules and bacteria to naturally enrich our soil instead of pouring chemical fertilizers everywhere.

Growing the beans is a piece of cake.   Just stick them in the ground and they will grow.  I have a large bird population, so I used row covers until the seeds showed signs of germination, then I took them off.  Otherwise the birds would have absconded with my bean seeds, and we can’t have that!  (besides, I have five birdfeeders going!  greedy birds!)

There are a lot of favorite ways to enjoy green beans in this house:  southern style simmered with salted meat, stir fried, casseroled.

Here’s one of my favorite early spring recipes, and I’m off to go make a bowl of this right now with my morning harvest.  Adapted from Southern Living.

Green Bean, Walnut, and Feta Salad

Ingredients:

2 lb green beans, washed, trimmed, steamed or boiled until crisp-tender
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
3/4 c olive oil (I’ll be honest, I used about half that)
1/4 c white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp fresh chopped dill (optional)
salt and pepper

Combine the first four ingredients in a bowl and chill 1 hour.  Combine the last ingredients and whisk together, pouring over salad, and chill for another hour.  Serve.  Devour.  Enjoy.

*  You can also throw in some crushed red pepper flakes if you like a little burn.

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