Are Pole Beans Like Cows? A Crashing Tale

Monticello 032 Pole beans edited
Photo credit: C. Bertelsen

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.)

Pole beans
Photo credit: C. Bertelsen

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

Beemer crash
Photo credit: M. Bertelsen

6 thoughts on “Are Pole Beans Like Cows? A Crashing Tale

  1. Carstens, I’m glad to be alive, too! It could have easily gone the other way.

    Ann, I cannot sit for very long yet. The pole beans were better than I expected.

    Kitty, yes, lots of names out there. I might add a short glossary one of these days. No, not at all like haricots verts!

    Mike, thank you for writing. I am happy to hear that you like my blog. That means a lot to me. It often takes a traumatic event to propel us into words, doesn’t it?

    Leah, thank you for writing. I look forward to reading your blog.

  2. Sorry to hear about the crash. How scary! Glad you are okay. I just discovered your blog. It’s beautiful and interesting. I love gardening, history, and food. I’m (sort of) new to the South so I look forward to learning more. Take care of yourself!

  3. So sorry to hear about your accident and hope you’re well. I’ve posted only rarely, but I’ve been loving your writing, insights and photography for years. And, yes, that’s something I should say more regularly to you and a select few others without the impetus of something like an auto accident.

  4. Cynthia, thank goodness you are still in one piece. Take care of yourself.
    I think my English grandmother used to call pole beans, “runner beans.” Nothing like haricots verts, though!

  5. I am so sorry to read of your accident and so glad that you’re alive to tell the tale (and to tell it so well).

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