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Green Beans

Green beans are in season on Long Island from July to September. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Green beans, string beans, snap beans —  What’s in a name? They’re all pretty much the same thing; a favorite, as veggies go, among many people, and unlike some other veggies, seldom considered “yucky.” At this time of year, they abound in bushel baskets at farm stands, green thatches of long and slender and crisp vegetable freshness. Trimmed and lightly steamed just to the point of tenderness where they still retain their greenness, they make a fine side dish on their own dressed with lemon or butter, or as a tasty component of salads, soups, casseroles, pasta or potato dishes.

So here’s what you need to do. Go to a farm stand, carefully pick out a bunch of skinny unblemished beans, take them home, sit yourself down near a fan or an AC vent, put a bowl in your lap, and with a little knife or your thumbnail, remove the brownish stem ends of the beans, then cut or snap them to desired size (I like to leave them whole). Here are some recipes to get you started.

Green Bean and Potato Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette

This is almost but not quite a salade nicoise.

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed and coarsely chopped

1 pound skinny green beans, stem end removed

2 garlic cloves, smashed into a paste

1 tablespoon anchovy paste

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained and chopped

2 teaspoons prepared Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 large handfuls baby arugula

4 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced

2 ripe garden fresh tomatoes, sliced

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup chopped fresh basil

DIRECTIONS:

In a large saucepan, boil the potatoes in salted water until just tender; remove from water, let sit until cool enough to handle , then cut into thin slices or dice. Simultaneously, in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer, salt the green beans to taste and cook over boiling water until tender but still bright green. Immediately remove and place in bowl of ice water for 5 minutes, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy paste, capers, mustard, vinegar and olive oil. When ready to serve, arrange arugula on a serving plate, toss the potatoes and beans with the vinaigrette and pile on top of the arugula. Arrange sliced or diced eggs and tomatoes on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper; garnish with chopped herbs. Serve warm or at room temperature with a chilled dry white wine, crusty French bread and unsalted butter.

Green Beans with Caramelized Onions

This combination of green beans and onions is a far cry from that old recipe made with canned onions and cream of mushroom soup.

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 large Vidalia or red onions, peeled and cut into rings

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

½ tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 pounds fresh skinny green beans, trimmed and steamed or boiled till tender but still bright green

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the butter and oil in medium skillet over medium heat; add onions, turn heat up to medium-high, and cook onions, stirring frequently, until light golden; add thyme, brown sugar and vinegar and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until onions are a rich medium dark brown. Place string beans in a serving bowl and top with caramelized onions. Serve warm or hot with poultry or meat.

Green Beans with Bacon and Balsamic

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed and cooked till tender but bright green

½ pound bacon, cooked till crispy and crumbled

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon bacon fat

1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large serving bowl toss the beans and bacon. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, bacon fat, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Half an hour before serving, toss the string bean mixture with oil mixture; tossing a few more times, let sit for at least half an hour. Serve at room temperature or warm with pork or poultry or as a main dish.

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Radishes only take 30 days to mature so you can easily plant them for at least another month. Stock photo

By Ellen Barcel

Just because we’re so far into summer, you don’t have to make the assumption that the season is over for growing vegetables. There are many you can plant by mid-August that will mature by Long Island’s earliest frost date — early November — unless you have a microclimate in your area that is much colder than the rest of the island. There are even veggies that you can start growing as late as mid-September.

The rule of thumb for fall planting is to look up the maturity date of the plants you wish to grow — 30 days, for example, for radishes. Then count backward. The last date you can plant radishes then would be the end of September or the very beginning of October. To be on the safe side, figure the middle of September, instead. Always check the package maturity date because different varieties can vary tremendously. Early varieties of beets can mature by 50 days while later varieties can take up to 80 days; early carrots 60 days while later ones up to 85.

Veggies that you can plant in mid-August include bush beans (early varieties mature in 45 days, late varieties in 65 days), early cabbage (60 days), cucumbers (60 days), mustard greens (40 days),  peas (60 days), spinach (40 days) and turnips (40 days). Early carrots (50 days), kohlrabi (45 to 60 days) and leaf lettuce (40 to 50 days).

Some varieties of beans will mature in just 45 days. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Some varieties of beans will mature in just 45 days. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Remember that all of the above are averages. An unusually hot September may affect your veggies negatively. An unusually early frost may do the same thing. But, this is what farmers from way back have had to contend with.  You plant based on the averages but Mother Nature may have other plans.

The Year Without a Summer, 1816, was called that because there was frost in every one of the 12 months of the year. The eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, spewing ash into the atmosphere and blocking the sun the year before, is credited with this phenomenon. But, we don’t need a drastic event to affect our garden. We gardeners know the damage to our plants caused by the cold and snow of the last two winters.

On the other hand, frost could be late. I remember a few years ago, putting out my Christmas wreath next to the geraniums, which were not only alive but still blooming.

So, go ahead and plant a late season vegetable garden and cross your fingers that Mother Nature cooperates to give you a bountiful fall harvest.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.