A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

October Beans

We stopped last week to buy apples at a big farm stand near Hendersonville, and among all the lovely apples and beets and ornamental squashes and tough, late-season green beans were a few bags of dried, shelled beans marked "dried October shellies." They were available in pods, too, by the handful: half-dried, twisted pods, beautifully mottled with pink and creamy white swirls. The beans, too, were pink and white. I cannot resist beans, so I bought some.

I did some research at home. My cookbooks were little help; the only people writing about these beans (which go by the names October beans, shelly beans and -- get this -- horticultural beans) seem to have ties to Appalachia and heirloom seeds. These beans seem to be grown mostly in parts of the rural, mountainous South and Midwest. They can be eaten fresh or dried. The pods are edible, too -- people chop them up and put them in soups for flavor.

I cooked them very simply, Southern-style: a few hours of soaking, followed by cooking with two slices of chopped up, rendered bacon, a dried red chile, water and a drizzle of honey. They cooked more quickly than older dried beans.

Surprisingly, they taste very much like pinto beans. I expected a more crowder-pea-like, brassy flavor, or maybe something creamier and lighter like an Italian cannellini.

We ate them mostly plain with cornbread and sauteed spinach that night. We had them left over for lunch. And yesterday -- five days later -- I cooked the rest of them with some tomatoes, rosemary, dried red chiles and garlic and such and served them over linguine. I like Italian bean pastas a lot.


Kris said...

Mmm. I want beans right now. I share your love for them in all forms.

Mary Katherine Orces said...

I found your posting because I was searching for (googling) the beans of my childhood - the ones my great grandmother made. My great grandparents were from East TN, as was all of my family back to the 1700's. She made "green beans and shellies". They were boiled together with onion and bacon grease over very low heat for four hours. I knew I had arrived at her house by that fabulous smell of the huge pot of green beans and shellies on the back of her stove. Thank you for your posting!

Anonymous said...

Onions were not cooked with the green beans! Bacon grease was not used but rather a small chunk of slab bacon.