When you’re talking about green beans, there’s one guy in particular worth chatting with: Dan Johnson. Johnson has been growing and selling green beans for more than 37 years. In fact, he has been at the Greater Springfield Farmers’ Market since it first opened. And if you ask Johnson which variety of green bean is the best, the answer is the Blue Lake bush green bean.
Johnson moved to Springfield in 1970 and rented a few acres from his grandfather. “I had never done any gardening before,” he says. “I thought it would be nice to grow vegetables.” That spring, farmers were invited to sell their harvests at the farmers’ market, and just like that, Johnson became a weekly fixture for shoppers.
More than 30 years later, Johnson still has those two acres, and his love of the Blue Lake green bean hasn’t wavered. The key to growing the perfectly crisp bean: warm soil and lots of sun. “Green beans need 90 percent sun,” Johnson says. “Give them lots of water, and in about 52 days, they’re ready to harvest.”
Once the beans reach 6 inches in length, Johnson heads out to his garden and picks his crop. “I pick them in the morning,” Johnson says. “There’s more moisture in the beans. If you wait until the afternoon when it’s 80 degrees, I don’t think they taste as fresh.” Store the beans in a cool place, and cook them as soon as you can. Leaving your beans in the fridge for three to four days can ruin those crispy pods. Once you pick your harvest, enjoy these recipes developed in the Springfield-based Food Channel Test Kitchens and in the 417 Test Kitchen by Assistant Editor Ettie Berneking.
Bacon Green Bean Bundles
By the Food Channel
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
¼ pound thick bacon, cut in half, partially cooked and drained
1 cup French dressing
Heat oven to 350°F. In a large saucepan, boil some salted water, and prepare an ice bath. Add green beans, and boil for about 3 minutes or until tender. Transfer the beans to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Make bundles of the green beans, and wrap them with the cooked bacon. Place the bundles, seam side down, in a baking dish. Drizzle the dressing over the green beans, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
Green Beans with Mustard Sauce
By the Food Channel
1½ tablespoons whole-grain mustard
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
⅓ cup sour cream
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
3 pounds fresh green beans
Whisk together the mustards, mayonnaise, horseradish, sour cream and salt. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans, and boil for 3 minutes or until they are tender and crisp. Transfer the beans to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Serve the sauce at room temperature with the green beans.
Green Bean Salad with Shrimp and Cantaloupe
By Assistant Editor Ettie Berneking
⅛ cup olive oil plus 1 tablespoon
Juice of 1 lemon
⅛ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
2 handfuls fresh green beans, trimmed
½ white onion, chopped
12 shrimp, deveined
1 roma tomato, diced
¼ cantaloupe, diced
To make the dressing, combine 1/8 cup olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Set aside. In a medium pot, bring water to a boil, and add the green beans. Blanch until tender. Transfer beans to an ice bath for 1 minute, and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet, and sauté the onions until tender. Set aside. In that same skillet, sauté the shrimp. Serve the green beans topped with the tomatoes, cantaloupe, sautéed onions and shrimp. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, and enjoy.