WV Farm2Fork: You don't know the half about half-runner beans

Purple Onion

Half-runners are snap beans and, like other green beans, are the only bean that you eat pod and all. You can cook them, freeze or can them and pickle them. You can enjoy them fresh, cut up into a salad for crunch and sweet flavor.

If you grew up in Appalachia or almost anywhere in the South, you know there are plenty of people who can’t wait for the bean crop to start coming in. Here at The Purple Onion, we start getting calls in mid-May from customers who are checking to see if we’ve got their favorite half-runners. We have customers who come in and buy them by the bagful.

In many families, including mine, a summer supper isn’t complete without a pot of beans. Winter meals often include those summer beans, canned with care using a generations-old recipe.

But if you didn’t grow up helping your grandmother string beans on the porch or preparing the beans for dinner, you might not know what makes these beans special.

Half-runners are snap beans and — like other green beans — are the only bean that you eat pod and all. You can cook them, freeze or can them and pickle them. You can enjoy them fresh, cut up into a salad for crunch and sweet flavor. Serve them as a delicious side dish or add them to soups, stews and casseroles to round out the flavors of your recipes.

When you purchase half-runners at the farmers market or grocery store, look for beans that are blemish-free, fat and full of meaty beans. Refrigerate them until you are ready to cook them.

Ready for stringing? Here’s how to use the double-snap method: Take the bean and, close to the end of the bean, snap off one end, being careful to leave the string on the bean. Pull the end down the length of the bean to remove the string. Do the same thing with the other end of the bean, pulling the string on the other side of the bean.

If the beans are four inches long, you can leave them whole. If they are longer and you want bite-size green beans, snap them in half or thirds.

Now you’re ready for cooking.

If you’ve never cooked half-runners before, don’t be surprised at the length of cooking time. You need that low, slow process to tease the full flavor from the beans. Here are three options for your half-runners. For a real taste of Southern half-runners, we encourage you to try the Traditional Southern Beans and Potatoes recipe.

Allan Hathaway is the owner of The Purple Onion and WV Marketplace at Charleston’s Capitol Market. For more information, visit the web pages at capitolmarket.net/merchants/purple-onion and capitolmarket.net/merchants/wv-marketplace; call The Purple Onion at 304-342-4414 and WV Marketplace at 304-720-2244. Email Allan at purpleonionco@aol.com.

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