There is nothing nicer than young runner beans picked straight from the vine, thinly sliced and briefly acquainted with salted boiling water… mmm, delicious! Many, many years ago we went to visit friends and my dad took a great big bag of lovely fresh beans. Our friends were delighted with them and immediately set to and slice them (even though dinner wasn’t for another couple of hours). My parents always prepared their vegetables as late as possible before cooking them so they were as fresh as possible, but oh, well, different people do things differently. My dad went into the kitchen a little later and to his horror the beautiful beans were already boiling away! Not wishing to interfere in anyone’s kitchen but wishing to save the beans, he moved them off the heat. A little later they were back on again, boiling hard, and dad had to resist moving them off the heat again… needless to say, when we sat down to lunch, there was a pile of slimy grey flabby things in the serving dish… I don’t remember whether we actually managed to eat any… that horror has been excised from my memory!
We have some fine beans growing at the moment, and they are delicious… However, there are always some which hide among the leaves of the vine and are old and leathery by the time we pick them. We don’t throw them away… but we don’t attempt to cook and eat them either,; my aunty always said that the hard carapace of an old runner bean was like toenails… yuk… but how did she know what cooked toenails are like… I’m not going to follow that thought! So what do we do with old beans? Split them open and take out the actual pink bean inside. When we have enough of them I do a version of baked beans using them,spicy, peppery, home-made tomato sauce and home-grown beans! perfect just with rice, or as a side dish to grilled meat. (I also like any left over served cold with crusty bread!)