Today, a lot of people take fresh fruits and vegetables for granted, but when I was a kid from a big Catholic family growing up in Chicagoland in the late 1960s and early 1970s, they were a precious commodity. I remember walking to the Green Street (grocery) store, trailing behind my mother’s shopping cart through the produce department and being fascinated by clusters of grapes as big as my head. What if I took just one, would anyone notice? I recall caving in to temptation on one shopping trip and picking a grape from its bunch, only to drop it, completely consumed by guilt.
The first clear memory I have of eating fresh, homegrown vegetables is of green beans. We were living in Bensenville at the time, and my mom had planted a row of green beans down one side of our red Cape Cod house. I knew they were there and would glance at them now and then as I ran by during one of our endless summer Catch One Catch All games. I was pretty hard to catch in those days!
Then one day my mother served a big bowl of green beans at suppertime. Not the mashy green stuff from a can but wonderful, sweet, tender, wonderful . . . . There was only enough for two meals for a family of eleven.
We moved “back to the land” in 1973, and my grandmother moved with us. She sold her house and had an apartment built into the exposed south end of the walkout basement of our new house in Wisconsin. Nanny (that is what all the grandchildren called her) taught my mom how to vegetable garden on a grander scale. We had a variety of fresh vegetables once we got the hang of it. We had enough land to grow all the greens beans we could eat fresh, pickled with dill, and frozen. We blanched and froze enough beans to last the entire winter!
On My Little Farm in Town, we eat green beans in a variety of ways: in stir fries; raw in salads; steamed alone and with other vegetables. I planted a couple rows in the bed outside my living room windows this year. I also threw down a couple packets of dill seed to ensure that I had both ingredients for my favorite way of eating green beans—steamed with butter and fresh cut dill. I am always surprised that very few people I know have tried this combination of flavors. Try it today while green beans and dill are in season! Begonia