Pole beans are sort of like cows.
If you keep milking a cow, she produces milk. Likewise, if you keep picking pole beans, the plant keeps producing.
Pole beans are not like bush beans, which render up a crop and then die back. I call them pole beans, but some people call them flat beans down here. That’s fine.
I intended to write about pole beans from a practical angle. You know, to grow them, you need eight-foot poles for the plants to climb up. You must pick them before the beans get too big inside the long flat pods, slightly fuzzy when freshly plopped into your picking sack.
But fate has a way of changing even the most determined of minds. And plans made in the dark of night often turn sour in the light of day.
That’s what happened to my pole beans plans. You technically should have been reading this post a week ago. This week’s post would be well on its way to the “page,” a story about the Margaret Holmes canning company of Effingham, Alabama 29541.
So what happened?
I was driving home last Monday, headed up the mountain road, my trunk filled with bags of pole beans, cartons of cream and milk, and a thick beef chuck roast destined for a date with thyme and garlic. You know how you feel when you’ve got the goods for some great cooking. You’re happy, the future looks bright.
I started down the small hill just before the turnoff to town when I spotted the enormous white service truck, the kind with steel plates on the sides, looks like a big Dodge Ram, but far tougher. Coming out of dirt road on the left, across four lanes of traffic, people going anywhere from 55-to-60 miles an hour, the driver hesitated for a second, and headed for the median.
Usually people stop in the median, but not this time.
I will never forget the feeling when I realized that he wasn’t going to stop. Not for a second. I slammed on the brakes as hard as I could. It wasn’t good enough. He still collided with my front end. The bang of the airbags startled me. It’s true that things start to seem like they’re going in slow motion. My back buckled forward and then came the real impact. Stunned, I sat there, staring at the smoke streaming out of the airbags. Only I didn’t know that airbags smoked after being deployed. I thought the car was on fire and was going to explode. I moved my legs, thank goodness. And then I screamed and screamed.
But I didn’t walk away. The ambulance people cut off the airbags and somehow got me onto a gurney and the hospital. Nothing broken, but whiplash of the lower back rasps nerve endings far worse than a fracture. I know.
So I’ve had a whole week to contemplate those pole beans in my refrigerator, which ended up there after my family cleaned out my poor totaled car before it began its last journey, to the junkyard. (See photo below.)
We finally ate them, cooked just like my mother used to cook them, like my grandmothers cooked them. Topped and tailed, with slivers of hickory-smoked bacon, the pink jewel-like against the green of the beans.
Blessings rained down that day, to be sure. And I am thankful I got to eat those beans and revel in the colors.
To cook pole beans, simply top and tail, pulling out the strings if there are any. Put in a pot, pour in water to cover, add a t. of salt, and some diced smoked bacon, preferably thick sliced. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a boil. When boiling, reduce heat, and cook for at least 30 minutes at a simmer. Beans should be fork tender when done. Drain and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.
© 2013 C. Bertelsen