Sunday, August 19th: Cool Beans!

Beans. Beans, I say! They are, after all, the magical fruit. And good for your heart. (Insert remainder of tongue twister here.) It is peak season now for beans of all sorts at your Ballard Farmers Market. Lotsa beans. Cool beans. Piles of beans. Green beansyellow wax beanspurple beansDragon's Tongue beansfresh shelling beansfava beansRomano beanshericot verts (that's a la Francais for "green beans", BTW), and more! Beans make for some of the most dramatic displays of the year here, and one farm that does it best of all is Growing Things Farm, as evidenced by the four-bean cascading display in the photo above. And I've seen them go six varieties wide in the past, too. Something yet to look forward to, eh?

I am so excited about the first appearance of fresh shelling beans for the 2012 season this week! Pictured here are fresh cannellini beans from Stoney Plains Organic Farm. These are the beans of Italy, and with good reason. They are delicious, versatile, and loaded with goodness. Most folks only use them dried or canned, but fresh cannellini beans are a special treat. And they freeze incredibly easily, so you can enjoy them all winter long, too! Just shell them, give them a rinse, and then pack them into pint freezer bags. No blanching required. I recommend then putting the pint bags inside a gallon bag for extra protection. They'll be good for at least a year in the freezer. Then, when you want succotash, a perfect side to duck confit, or you are making a lovely winter cassoulet, you just have to pull a bag out, boil them for about 20 minutes, and they're ready to go! Oh, and Stoney Plains also has fresh cranberry beans now, too. (Hey, Terry. Please save me some of those cannellinis today, eh?)

These are Dragon's Tongue beans from Oxbow Farm. At this point in their season, you can eat them much like green or Romano beans, raw, sautéed, steamed, in salads, etc., eating the entire bean, pod and all. They are a wide, flat bean like Romanos. However, in a few short weeks, this bean matures a little more and becomes another great shelling bean, which can then be shucked and enjoyed fresh, too, or they can be dried and stored for months.

Jade beans from Gaia's Natural Goods are more along the lines of the traditional green beans most of us know and love. However, they are a little bit more slender, and have a wonderful, bright flavor. They are great for pickling, and they are wonderful sautéed with some pearl onions and some bacon, much like hericot verts. Indeed, there are many, many different kinds of green beans throughout the Market right now, each with its own name, flavor profile and in varying sizes and shades of green, just begging to be made into a nice salad with some freshly roasted chicken breast and some tart summer apples, like the Shamrock apple from Tiny's Organic Produce.

Purple beans from Bositfort Valley Farm offer a slightly deeper bean flavor, and together with green and yellow wax beans make for a really cool looking three bean salad. When pickled, they taste great, but they tend to loose their purple color. But with so many fun varieties of beans available right now, you might as well mix it up and enjoy a different one each day, right?

We finish off this week's Tour de Beans with the first bean to come into season each year -- fava beans from Nash's Organic Produce. Sure, you can shuck these beauties and enjoy them with some liver and a nice chianti, but did you know that you can freeze and dry them, too, just like any shelling bean? Ah, but wait. There's more! Perhaps the most fun you can have with favas -- and the easiest way to prepare them -- is to simply grill them right in their pods, and then eat them, pod and all. To prep them, just remove the stem and the string on one side, give them a nice coating of olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss them over the hot coals alongside the rest of your meal. Delish!

Finally, another reminder to please bring your own bags today, and every Sunday, as Seattle’s single-use plastic bag ban is now in effect. Also, please take note of our new green composting and blue recycling waste receptacles throughout your Ballard Farmers Market, and please make an effort to use them correctly. Each container has what’s okay to put in it pictured right on the lid. Please do not put the wrong materials in, because that drives up the cost of recycling and composting, and it can result in the entire container being sent instead to a landfill. Your understanding and cooperation are appreciated.

There is plenty more local deliciousness waiting for you today at your Ballard Farmers Market. Just check What’s Fresh Now! for a more complete accounting of what is in season right now.