We don’t eat green beans very often. The first couple of years that we gardened we grew a few but were finding most went to waste. Then I discovered how easy it is to grow beans to the fresh shelling and dried stages. Not only do we end up with seed we can grow again next year, but there are so many different dishes we like that can be made with them: soup, chili, casseroles, cassoulet, baked beans and any number of Mexican dishes.
One of my little rituals I enjoy is picking a bag of the dried pods and then sitting on the deck cracking them open and dropping the beans into a bowl on my lap. I like to call it “Shellin’ Beans and Reminiscin’” because of the old-fashioned, homey feel of it, even though I don’t do much actual reminiscing during the process. Still, it’s a pleasant, meditative activity that’s a nice end to a gardening day. Sometimes I’ll pick the pods off several kinds of beans and let them get all mixed up during the shelling. Then I have the task of sorting them into different containers for storage, another relaxing activity. Each kind of bean looks entirely different from all the others so mix-ups are unlikely. Half the reason I choose the beans to grow that I do is their appearance. I appreciate a pretty bean.
This summer, when it felt like there were more things to do than time to do them I resorted to a more efficient way of shelling the beans. I stomped around on the pods in a tub and then only had to pick through the ones that were more reluctant to be retrieved and winnowed the contents of the tub in front of a fan in the back yard. It worked well and took less time. But I haven’t given up my old habits entirely. The stragglers that dried after the main wave have all been hand-shelled. I think regardless of how big my bean crops ever get I’ll be doing at least some of them the slow way. It’s a great part of the pleasure of growing beans.