When Emma was 18-months old, my husband and I planted two 20-foot long rows of green beans. We thought we could outsmart her. Up until this time, she wouldn’t eat any green vegetable. Surely, we thought, she would not be able to resist one of summer’s most heralded crops.
Beans are not only one of the most heralded crops, they are one of the oldest. They are about 9,000 years-old and, according to “Eating in America,” the Native Americans of the eastern United States probably developed their own beans independently. The beans were already widespread when the first explorers reached the coast. Within a century after the "discovery" of America, several beans developed by the Natives were being exported to the Old World.
So, those of us that herald the coming of green beans from our gardens, and make its planting, cooking, and preserving a part of our yearly ritual are in essence taking part in an ancient earth practice. (Photo by Living in Monrovia.)
For my family in Pennsylvania, part of the ritual was boiling green beans with potatoes and adding a slab of bacon or ham to it. Now that I am a vegetarian, I add liquid smoke, which adds the flavor without all the fat.
So, when Emma and I began picking beans one sunny Saturday, we were both participating in not only our family ritual, but also an age-old human family ritual. I could almost hear Native American drums beating, and voices rising in unison, singing while picking. Oh, I was feeling my Earth Mother roots and so “at one” with the universe as I watched my baby pick a bean. Well, Emma took a bite of one, set it aside, then took a bite out of another, set it aside, until she became bored and just walked away. Kind of anticlimactic.
Later, beans cooked and ready for the table, her father and I awaited in eager anticipation—our daughter’s first meal with green beans that we had planted and picked. It brought back memories for us both. Is there anything better than the first batch of green beans cooked just right? Well, according to Emma, who would not even take a bite, there's plenty—starting with macaroni and cheese.
Emma is almost 12, now, and still won't eat green beans.