by David Cecelski
A rather grizzled old
gentleman at my local farmers market had the loveliest October beans this
morning. October beans, which are also called “fall beans” or “speckled beans,”
are an assortment of old heirloom shell beans that usually ripen between the
end of summer and the first frost.
I still can’t get used to how beautiful these are.
The shells have long speckled strands of brilliant pink, and a few are colored
a solid dark pink. The shelled beans are lovely, too. They’re a lustrous pearl
white and speckled with pink.
My favorite way to cook them is the most traditional
way, the way I've had them in the Appalachian foothills, where I've seen
October beans most often: I shell the beans when they’re fresh and tender, not dried.
I season them with a slice of fatback or ham hock, slow-cook them with chopped
onion, and add salt and pepper to taste. I often add a sprig of fresh sage,
I cook them on a low boil, until they’re creamy and
beginning to fall apart. Served in their broth and with a side of cornbread for
dipping, they’re just exquisite. They have an earthy, almost chestnut-like
flavor, as complex, deep, and particular to where they’re grown as vintage
wines, really the stuff of dreams
NCFOOD is the North Carolina Folklife Institute’s blog exploring our state’s traditional cooking and foodways. Every highway and byway in the state is a potential jumping off point for a food adventure, whether discovering the Restaurante Rosa de Saron in Sampson County or the Pakse Café in Greensboro.
You’ll find stories and personal experiences about farmers and food artisans, local recipes, and great traditional eateries -- a celebration of the rich and diverse food traditions of North Carolina. Celebrate the magic that happens when many cultures come together around a common table.
Title photo of Altapass Orchard by Cedric N. Chatterley