Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gardens, Green Beans, and the women I love most

It's Green Bean season. Beans are ripe, and need to be picked and either canned or frozen, or even eaten fresh. I love home canned Green Beans. They are so much better than those you can get at the store. Much much better. Well, except the French cut beans...I like those from the store...

We had gardens at various times when I was a kid, and Green Beans were always a staple. I hated picking beans. They are (duh) green, and so are the leaves. They hide among the leaves. You have to bend over when you pick them. Rows are long. Your back hurts. You have to pick every few days....

I hated helping Mom pick beans. But, I liked snapping beans.

Mom, and Grandma B. snapped beans. Meaning, they used fingers and snapped the blossom end and the tip off the bean, then snapped the bean into 3 or 4 pieces. Grandma Woodruff cut her beans. Where we snap, she used an old paring knife to make those same cuts. I think she cut because she raised 7 kids and had a much bigger garden than Grandma Berends did or even my Mom. My Aunt Ruby also had a huge garden, and I remember seeing her 6 or 7 rows of beans and felt sorry for my cousins who had to help pick all those rows of beans. (And, I felt grateful that I didn't have to help!)

I can remember helping Grandma W. snap beans sitting on the front porch. The time I helped, they still lived on the farm, so I was younger than 10. I remember sitting there with her, bowls on our laps, beans between us, just cutting our beans and talking. I felt very grown up, helping my grandma and getting to use a knife! I can still see her sitting there, in her dress and sensible shoes, her beautiful white hair shining in the sunlight, snapping beans. I have the feeling that she was enjoying herself, sitting outside, enjoying the weather, watching the cattle out in the pasture and watching Steve and I play. I don't think I helped very long, I probably lasted a few minutes, but Grandma let me help, and when I was done, she let me run off and play. Just an ordinary day, but for some reason, that memory has stuck with me.

I spent more time helping Grandma B., because I stayed with her more often than I did Grandma W. So bean picking and snapping memories are more common and more of a chore. After all, you do get tired of doing beans long before the season is over. Grandma B. usually put a newspaper down on the kitchen table for the ends and bad beans. Then, when we were done, I took that newspaper outside and shook it off so the chickens could eat the parts we didn't use. Mom did it the same way, except we didn't have chickens, so we just tossed the tips and bad pieces.

None of my "womenfolk" let me help with the pressure canning. I could wash the beans, and help pack the jars, but working with the pressure cooker and hot water was something that the adults did. I was scared of the pressure cooker.

Now, I grow my own beans. I like to snap them in the kitchen, or sometimes in the living room, in front of the TV. We didn't plant enough rows that I get enough each time to can, so I'm freezing my beans this year. But, just doing this activity that I did with my Mom and with my Grandma's gives me a sense of belonging and tradition. It's a tie from my present to my past and to them; the women I love most.

No comments: