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An explosion was heard in rural Sussex over the weekend

Been on a bean streak lately. You know, dried beans, soak ’em overnight, cook ’em with fatback. It’s probably a variety of homesickness; I come from a bean eating people.

When I went away to college, I had to call my mother and ask her, “when we have a bowl of beans…what exactly kind of beans are those?” At the time, my ignorance embarrassed me, but turns out it’s not such a dumb question. There are many varieties of small white bean, and recipes play fast and loose with the definitions.

The one I was looking for was probably the navy bean, which is called that because we stuffed American sailors full of them in the late 19th, early 20th. And I know that’s true, because I’ve just reached the point in Norman Rockwell’s autobiography where he joins the navy, and he describes desperately painting portraits if the officers to ingratiate himself and escape the endless beans in the regular mess. Poor bastards.

Those beans are called haricot beans here and they are the base bean for Heinz baked beans. Yup, hard to believe those vile neon orange fuckers are made out of the innocent white navy bean, but it’s true.

One of our local markets put a bunch of beans on the reduced rack — the more exotic varieties just weren’t selling, I guess — so I have some new and wonderful beans to try. I’m especially looking forward to adzuki beans, which are little read beans used in desserts in the East.

Why I thought you might like to spend the weekend here talking about beans, I couldn’t say, but allow me to recommend the Bean Institute‘s quarterly newsletter if the conversation runs dry. Good weekend, beaners!


Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: February 28, 2014, 11:11 pm

Oh, man. I love beans. Thank you for this timely reminder that beans make the Holidays happen. Check out my bean-centric spam weblog, & buy all of your bean-related paraphenalia from this sketchy Chinese website that kinda looks like an Obamacare exchange.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: February 28, 2014, 11:12 pm

if the conversation runs dry

Well, you could soak the conversation for 12 hours & then cook it, right?

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: March 1, 2014, 12:02 am

I love beans, so tasty and healthy. Sadly with my messed up innards, they don’t get along so well with my digestion 🙁

But hey, you moved to England and they love some baked beans there. No, they aren’t your mom’s baked beans, but at least they love some beans.

Personally I prefer black and pinto beans. The kind I cannot stand to eat are full grown green limas. They taste horrific. Baby limas are great with ham stock but the big green ones are just evil.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 1, 2014, 12:09 am

I’ve never seen full grown green limas. From what I’ve been reading, adult limas are butter beans, which are pale yellow.

The one I can’t abide: black eyed peas. Nasty, waxy and flavorless.

Comment from Randy Rager
Time: March 1, 2014, 2:53 am

How odd. I’ve been on a bean kick myself lately, that started with black eyed peas and got progressively worse the harder I fell in love with my new pressure cooker set.

Smoked turkey thighs (Bowman Landes brand) make an excellent kosher substitute for ham, BTW. Highly recommended for when the rabbi is dropping by.

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: March 1, 2014, 3:46 am

I like the Heinz baked beans…except for the oogy lumps of pork fat.

Ma’s home made are the best though…good for the digestion 🙂

Comment from AliceH
Time: March 1, 2014, 4:03 am

Beans are my least-favorite legume.

I’ve been on this lentil/basmati rice casserole kick lately – dump them (uncooked – soaking optional, pre-rinsing not optional) in a 9×13″ pan with chicken stock and other stuff (like onion, spicy sausage, carrots, cheese, herbs, salt, red and black pepper) and bake at 350 for a couple hours… Yum!

Comment from Davem123
Time: March 1, 2014, 5:48 am

Beans, bidets and bad music. Can it be that the incessant rain and the trauma of the tree is affecting your mood, Dame Stoaty? Come back to the light and sing to us of chicks and cats and banjos.

By the way, navy beans are best when cooked with ham and ladled into a bowl with broken-up cornbread and lots of butter.

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: March 1, 2014, 6:41 am

I love black eyed peas. You can make some killer black eyed peas and rice, but you gotat know how to cook them.

I’m not sure what those green bastards are, but that’s what the stores call them here: Lima Beans. Green and godawful.

Another “bean” that’s inedible trash is edemame, which is soy beans, but no human should be forced to eat them. I love those suckers small and roasted but if you let them grow to maturity they turn ghastly.

Comment from Can’tHarkMyCry
Time: March 1, 2014, 12:57 pm

All of the above beans. Plus kidney, cannelini, chickpeas, kashmiri rajma, and jacob’s cattle.
I just finished the last of a batch of chili beans from a recipe Ric Locke gave me. Yum!

Comment from Deborah
Time: March 1, 2014, 2:58 pm

Black-eyed peas are best if grown in your own garden, then cooked—with onions and ham hocks. I never learned to can them, because my grandfather-in-law would can bushels and bushels of them (which he had grown). The only thing I “put up” (as the old-timers call it) are beets, dill pickles, and wild plum jelly—and I haven’t done any of that in a long time.

I married into a family of prolific country gardeners. The only thing my father planted was okra. The man loved fried okra and we ate it all the time. Too bad it’s so hard to buy decent fresh okra. If you want to buy it at the farmers market you have to get there at three o’clock in the morning!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 1, 2014, 4:34 pm

They don’t put lumps of pork fat in British beans, Quasimodo. I leave to you infer why (actually, it’s the health nazis more than anything. They don’t put salt and sugar in anything anymore, either). If you think that lump of pig is oogy, try beans that have been cooked without that lump of pig. Meh.

We once planted half an acre of okra and then forgot about it. When we stumbled over it again, they were so big (and tough) my brother and I used them for mock swordfights.

I’ll eat anything battered and fried…but, geez, okra is nasty stuff any other way.

Comment from Mojo
Time: March 1, 2014, 4:46 pm

Pinto beans lead inevitably to Refritos, in my experience…

Comment from Mojo
Time: March 1, 2014, 4:46 pm

Note to self: buy Beano…

Comment from Mojo
Time: March 1, 2014, 4:49 pm

I’ve often wondered who was the first guy to look at the hairy, villainously green Okra pod and say ” I’m gonna eat that sucker…”

Ok, done.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 1, 2014, 5:52 pm

I had an artichoke yesterday. Who the hell worked THAT out?

Yeah, it’s a big fat inedible thistle, but if you just nibble the ends of the leaves off, it’s an excuse to eat loads of butter.

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: March 1, 2014, 7:08 pm

Artichokes are tasty but they’re so much work its difficult to justify it as food. I mean, how many actual calories do you end up with in the end after all that labor?

I’ve long wondered the origin of how we got the food we have. Consider rhubarb. You can eat this end, but not that end. This end makes great pie. That end kills you.

I picture some king sitting at a table and a line of peasants trying different foods by royal command. “OK you can’t eat those, mark that down and drag her away.”

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 1, 2014, 8:00 pm

Oh, dear…you said the “R” word, Christopher. Uncle B is…let’s just say he’s a fan of the stuff.

Comment from AliceH
Time: March 1, 2014, 8:51 pm

If I ever start a blog, I’m going to name it “Consider Rhubarb”.

Comment from Mojo
Time: March 1, 2014, 9:02 pm

Consider “rhubarb” as a slang term for “a fight” and you’ll be on the right track…

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: March 1, 2014, 10:07 pm

People eat poke salad, too. It’s toxic as hell, & you have to boil the greens, & throw away the water three times before you’ve (hopefully) leeched out enough poison so that it won’t kill you. Good luck, suckers.

Comment from Mr. Dave
Time: March 2, 2014, 1:19 am

Back during the hard times my Grandma had a big ole ham bone that they cooked navy beans with but they only had the one big ole ham bone so they recycled it through a few pots of navies. They’d even loan it out to the pore folks that didn’t have a ham bone. But some jerk cooked pinto beans with a navy bean ham bone and rurnt our ham bone. We didn’t talk to them at church for a long time.

Comment from AliceH
Time: March 2, 2014, 3:12 am

Not sure about that, Stark.

Poke grows like crazy all around here. For a couple months starting early summer, we cut bunches and bunches of it to cook/eat like spinach (though it takes a long time to cook) – I love it!

I’ve never seen or had it in a salad, though. Maybe that’s the deadly form.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: March 2, 2014, 5:38 am

To quote Carole Skelly:

There is considerable confusion concerning poke. Poke, an Algonquian Indian word, refers most commonly to Phytolacca americana, however it can also be Veratrum viride [Liliaceae], (see False Hellebore), Symplocarpus foetidus [Araceae], (see Skunk Cabbage), and Nicotiana rustica [Solanaceae], which is wild tobacco. To add to the confusion, there is Phytolacca acinosa, a species native to China and Japan but naturalized in India, that is also known as Indian poke. Another species native to Japan and China, Phytolacca esculenta, is considered an edible plant by Horus Third.

In areas of the United States, such as northeastern Oklahoma and parts of Arkansas, there are those people who look forward to the springtime when they can have “poke salad” which they claim is “very beneficial” to their health. Whereas to most people, “salad” is made with raw greens, “poke salad” shoots and greens must be cooked, the cooking water changed and discarded several times. Poke salad advocates will say, “Everyone knows the water is poison!” There are many documented deaths from eating improperly prepared “poke salad”. The entire plant should be considered highly toxic.

Be careful out there.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 2, 2014, 1:18 pm

Am I really going to be the first person to call it poke sallet? Mother was very particular about that. We used to eat it, but I don’t know which it was.

Mr. Dave, that is officially my favorite comment, ever.

Comment from jwpaine
Time: March 2, 2014, 4:36 pm

Your mom… she didn’t happen to be a wretched, spiteful, straight-razor totin’ woman, did she?



Comment from Davem123
Time: March 2, 2014, 5:46 pm

Was her momma workin’ on a chain gang?


They just don’t write stuff like this anymore.

Comment from Davem123
Time: March 2, 2014, 5:50 pm

Old Tony Joe was well ahead of his time, even seeing the rise of the trolls:


Comment from David Gillies
Time: March 2, 2014, 7:11 pm

The ‘big green lima beans’ are probably broad beans. I can’t stand them either. Poke sallet* seems more trouble than it’s worth. If you have to expend that much effort to make your food not merely palatable but non-toxic then you are quite a way down the totem pole (q.v. yuca/manioc/cassava).

I have a wicked recipe for charro beans with bacon and chorizo. It is yummy but you need to clear your day out to make them. In general beans profit mightily from having a pressure cooker to prepare them but chili needs that slow cooking.

* In the Tony Joe White song mentioned above (the one Elvis covered) it’s Polk Salad.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: March 2, 2014, 9:48 pm

Black beans with leftover BBQ ribs.

Comment from Deborah
Time: March 2, 2014, 11:42 pm

I want to like black beans, but they hurt me.

Comment from drew458
Time: March 3, 2014, 9:08 am

I was going to mention epazote, the dried herb you add to any bean dish to get the gas out. then I saw lentils mentioned. Wonderful lentils; they open the door to an entire continent of flavorful dishes. Dahl! Bread! Curry! But then skunk cabbage salad? Y’all are sick. And stupid. You want crap greens to eat, go boil some collards. At least they’re mostly non-poisonous.

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: March 3, 2014, 7:15 pm

None of those “removes gas from beans” things work as advertised, but they do help a little bit.

And when it comes to greens, I prefer mustard or turnip greens, myself.

Comment from Sigivald
Time: March 3, 2014, 9:23 pm


Somebody say beans? I like beans!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 3, 2014, 10:24 pm

I don’t know why my blog ate your link, Sigi. It was Blazing Saddles, wasn’t it? I’m amazed we got this far and no-one posted the scene from Blazing Saddles.

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: March 3, 2014, 10:47 pm

Yeah, my dad, who is living with me now, likes to have Salt Pork or bacon and onion in his bean mix.

Comment from AliceH
Time: March 4, 2014, 5:27 am

FWIW, we don’t do the discard-water bit when we prepare poke. Choose only young, smaller/tender leaves. wash well. Put in dutch oven-sized pot of water – cook cook cook cook… about an hour, but no problem leaving it cook for 2, or 4 hours – it doesn’t hurt it. Drain, eat. Better than fresh spinach. Save the leftovers (if any) – it reheats well.

I learned this from Betty, who has been doing it this way since she was 7, and whose 4 poke-filled children and 6 poke-filled grandchildren are presently looking forward to celebrating her 90th birthday this spring.

I second the nomination of Mr. Dave’s entry for best comment ever.

Comment from AliceH
Time: March 4, 2014, 5:30 am

I suppose I should mention not to eat polk when it gets big, bolts, or looks like it is close to going to seed, and never ever ever eat the leaves/stems/berries when it’s er, got berries. (Birds love them, though) Only when it first appears, and only for 4-6 weeks (8 weeks, with rigorous pruning) weeks after that.

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: March 4, 2014, 5:33 am

adzuki beans, which are little read beans used in desserts in the East. Are there widely read beans?

“Mever consume legumes before transacting whatsoever even in the outermost courtyard of a descendant of Timur the Terrible.” Avram Davidson in “Dr. Bhumbo Singh”.

I however plan to have a pot of red beans and rice with sausage in honor of Mardi Gras tomorrow night.

Comment from lauraw
Time: March 4, 2014, 5:26 pm

Nomnom. Got a nice pot of lentils on right this moment. Recently, hubby and I have taken to making our own home-cured and smoked bacons. After I peel the smoked rind off, I cut the rind up into big squares and freeze it. Every pot of beans or split peas or lentils gets a square or two of that concentrated bacony rind with a little fat sticking to it.

Four hours in the crockpot, baby. Good stuff! And I even have a little homemade sourdough rye to go with it.

This has been a very comfort-foodish Winter. The comfort is sticking to me everywhere. Folds of comfort.

Comment from Mr. Dave
Time: March 4, 2014, 6:11 pm

I’m raising brown crowder peas this year, if the deer don’t eat them before I can. I think they’re the best tasting peas but you can’t find anything except purple hull peas and Weez’s beloved black eyed peas these days. Fresh pinto beans are very good too and much different than their dried brethren.

Comment from Mr. Dave
Time: March 4, 2014, 6:23 pm

And just my witness: The big yellow lima beans are not a Christian bean.

Comment from AliceH
Time: March 4, 2014, 6:46 pm

Couldn’t find the original Carole Skelly article excerpted above, but I tumbled onto this:Can Be Deadly But Oh So Delicious: Pokeweed at a site called “Eat the Weeds”.

Includes brief aside on “Poke Sallet”, and picture of a can of “Poke Salet”.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: March 5, 2014, 3:39 am

Sorry, it was hand-transcribed from the “Dictionary of Herbs, Spices, Seasonings, and Natural Flavorings” by Carole J. Skelly ©1994, which you can still buy! (I believe I paid $2 for it over 10 years ago: thank you, KCMO Public Library for preferring Oprah’s shitty recommendations over actual, useful books)

Comment from Sigivald
Time: March 5, 2014, 10:08 pm

Weasel: No, it was Brak, from Space Ghost. Doing the Bean Song.

(The line about “I like beans!” is from the start of the “King Dead” episode, which is not for free online…)

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