Friday, August 28, 2009

Greasy Beans In The Blue Ridge Mountains

I had never heard of greasy beans till I moved out into a rural part of Western North Carolina - driving down Lake Logan road in Bethel I distinctly remember the hand painted signs at the end of a farmers road reading "greasy beans for sale per pound". I honestly was like WTF is a grease bean, and why would I want it if it's all greasy anyway - I figured it was something akin to southern boiled peanuts and I wanted no part of that. Here I am 8 years later in Leicester, NC living on a property where my neighbors planted 16 rows of this locally revered bean - and didn't taste one till yesterday. Man had I been wrong.
Greasy beans aren't actually greasy, nor is it some special name for something southern peeps generally like to do to their food anyway - it's neither a typical dry bean OR a typical green bean, it is something of a union of the two kinds making one hell-a-va flavorful veggie! The way it's different from a green bean is that green beans have to be picked early to taste better, once they get bumpy they are flavorless and gross and have gone to seed... a greasy bean is good from start to finish, the tiny ones are yummy and can be cooked like snow peas, while the most gigantic ones are better then eating baked french fries. And what makes these beans even more bang for the planted buck, is you can even dry them and later cook the dried ones too!
Steam them, fry them, can them, pickle them, bake them- you can do anything to them that you can do to both green beans and dry beans!!!
Pictured below are the various stages of food the greasy bean provides- there's not alot of food producing plants that can boast such a long term, varied stage of life edible prize. Plus it has a neato history...
"Greasys are so prized in the mountain south that an Appalachian bride's trousseau would traditionally have included a few seeds from her family's unique strain of beans. Such devoted guardianship has produced an unmatched diversity of greasy beans in the North Carolina and Kentucky highlands, with more than 30 known varieties still cultivated on small patches of mountain land. Greasy beans' disappearance from the collective Appalachian larder results not from any shortcomings in their flavor, but a pervasive preference for beans that don't require "unzipping," in mountain parlance. Even those mountain dwellers who don't mind having to shuck their beans the old-fashioned way tend to romanticize half-runners, a hardy bean that began dominating the Southern market in the mid-20th century." - Hanna Raskin of Slashfood

I wonder which kind I have here- cause I have already started saving the seeds, and am going to start carrying a little piece of history with me whenever I go.
XoXo Greasy hugs and kisses ;)


blair said...

'greasy beans' is an old time banjo / fiddle tune, too .. :-)

Karen at A Glimpse Into My Reveries said...

Boy, I hope you are still monitoring your old posts! I just found your blog after googling greasy beans.

I love the description of greasy beans not having the usual fuzzy texture. I'd love to try growing them here in Western Washington!

My sister and I are both organic home gardeners that try every year to grow more and more of family's food.

I was hoping you might know of a good source for organically grown greasy beans?