I say this all of the time, but one of the most incredible aspects of shopping at the farmers’ markets is the sheer diversity and uniqueness of what you will encounter.
It’s never just the same lineup of uniform looking russet potatoes, romaine lettuce, red tomatoes and berries found day in and day out, but rather the dozens of options within those same categories. Purple majesty potatoes, French oak lettuce, black pineapple tomatoes and tangy sweet olallieberries are just some examples of what you can expect to find seasonally as some fun alternatives.
This week, in addition to fresh green beans, I encountered another great alternative that is quite unique to farmers markets this time of year: yardlong beans.
Also commonly referred to as asparagus beans, Chinese/China long beans or in my house, “snake” beans, this legume vegetable is one that I will enjoy in my house over the next few months.
They’re best this time of year when harvested at their younger stage. And they deliver a pleasing snappy texture with a balance of subtle sweet and bitter notes throughout.
Unlike the more common blue lake, Kentucky wonder or French-style green beans we are most accustomed to, yardlong beans range from about 12-18 inches in length, with much smaller beans encased within their dense pods.
While they can be steamed or boiled, their texture is much more suitable in stir-fries, sautés, when deep fried and even in grilled preparations.
This week I prepared a very simple grilled yardlong bean dish, which is excellent when served with most grilled meats.
Because of their extremely long presence on the plate, they can either be sliced into one-inch pieces after being cooked or served in their long form with just a knife and fork at the table.
Grilled Yardlong Beans
1 bunch yardlong beans, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon olive olive
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
Optional: zest from one lemon
Optional: 2 ounces chèvre
In a mixing bowl, combine yardlong beans, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss until the beans are well coated. If using lemon zest, toss it with the green bean mixture. Set aside until ready to cook.
On a hot grill, lay yardlong beans flat and cook for about 2 minutes. Flip and cook for 2 more minutes. Once done, they will have a nice tender crunch.
Plate and top with crumbled chèvre if desired.
Yield: Serves 3 sides.