Whitesburg KY

In praise of Roma beans and other garden delights

Loretta and I love Roma beans. I grow the bush variety, Roma II, which is simply a short version of the old-time pole variety that grows like English ivy.

We usually can 21 quarts and by the time beans are ready in the garden come another year, they are all gone.

Brothers Steve and Keeter who, except for Elaine Adams and her dad, Lowell, are the most serious vegetable gardeners I know, say that if Romas were the only choice they had come gardening season, they wouldn’t even fool with growing beans. And they would divorce their wives if they caught them wasting jars to can them.

But as far as I’m concerned, comparing Romas to other beans is sort of like comparing apples to oranges. Besides the Romas, I am growing cornfield beans, Bufford Caudill fall beans, goose beans and before the day is out I will have planted a couple of heirloom varieties that Elaine passed along to me, so we should have beans till frost.

Points East

Still, if Loretta had her way, we’d only grow Romas. I feel the same way about the Bufford Caudill fall beans.

Anyway, the beans are ready and we’ve been eating Romas at least one meal a day since the middle of the month.

Besides having such a unique and wonderful taste, they cook up really fast and they are subjective to a range of recipes. They are equally great in the traditional pot with a hunk of bacon as well as simply steamed with basil and oregano.

There is no finer casserole than a big dish of fresh Roma beans mixed with a liberal helping of ground pecans, a couple of big, diced, fresh tomatoes, a diced bell pepper, a small diced onion, and a dozen or so fresh, sweet Italian basil leaves chopped and added in. You can also add some fresh rosemary, summer savory, oregano if you want. Sprinkle on some salt and fresh ground pepper to suit yourself after the dish has baked for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

If Mexican food better suits your palate, do the beans, tomatoes, onions and peppers with almonds instead of pecans. Use fresh cilantro instead of basil and chop in a fresh, hot chili or cayenne pepper.

There’s really nothing magic about these recipes. I never do them the same way nor do I ever measure anything. I just start adding stuff in till the dish is full and then I stick it in the oven. And rarely do we have leftovers if anyone else is in the house come mealtime.

We visited in Laurel County with Elaine and her family last Sunday. They are Letcher County natives and I grew up with them.

Laney had cooked up a huge pot of white greasy beans, new potatoes on a beef roast and made cornbread from meal that Lowell had ground on his gristmill and served it all up with homegrown tomatoes, cucumbers and onions.

If told I could only eat one more meal on this earth, that’s the one I’d order. I’d add a couple or three ears of sweet corn on the cob if it was ready, but if it wasn’t, I’d just take a second helping of everything else.

Laney cooks for and takes care of her mother, Dootsie, who doesn’t get around nearly as well as she did when she was in her 60s. If I was an invalid, I’d be trying to move in with Dootsie and let Elaine cook for both of us. Everybody has to die of something sooner or later, but a man wouldn’t have to worry about starvation getting the best of him if Elaine was anywhere nearby.

And speaking of sweet corn, my Bodacious is still a week or so away from being full. On Saturday, while out yard sale browsing in the bluegrass, we stopped at Polley’s Farm, which is about four miles outside Nicholasville in Jessamine County on KY 1981.

Polley’s has oodles of nameyour favorite-veggie growing in fields on all sides of the barn where they sell it. A bit on the pricey side by my standards but, on the other hand, nobody has ever accused me of being a big spender.

Four bucks for a dozen ears of just-picked peaches and cream sweet corn is what Loretta shelled out while I was grumbling that two bucks would have been about right.

Sunday night, after returning from Laurel County, she popped four ears, each just shy of nine inches (I measured them) long in a kettle, brought it to a boil and then we lathered on the butter.

“Complain all you want to,” Loretta mumbled between bites. “This ear of corn that I’m eating is worth a dollar by itself.”

“Yep,” I agreed. “Why don’t you pop in another couple ears while the water is still hot and didn’t you tell me that you had to be in Jessamine County on Tuesday? You might want to stop back by Polley’s.”

Most tightwads do have their soft spots.

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