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, too.
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.
Nantahala Farm & Garden
Topton, NC 28781
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