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I have learned a lot about gardening and customer wants by participating in farmers markets and agricultural activities.

Customers are nostalgic. They want those heirloom varieties of vegetables that they remember from their childhood. Forget the new supersweet bicolor varieties of corn that have tender, moist kernels; great flavor and a slow conversion to starch. Customers want Silver Queen corn that reigned supreme many decades ago.

It isn’t easy to convince a customer of the superiority of some of the newer varieties of corn like Serendipity, which is what I now grow. Customers insist on Silver Queen, and there is no convincing them that the ears begin to lose their sweetness and freshness as soon as they are picked. In fact, half of the sugar in Silver Queen turns to starch within 24 hours from harvest.

As soon as tomato season arrives, customers begin looking for Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes. There is an interesting story behind the tomato, which was developed in the hills of West Virginia in the 1940s by a man named Marshall Cletis Byles. He spent several years crossing different varieties of tomatoes to come up with plants that produced the largest fruit. Eventually, he developed a plant that produced tomatoes that were more than a pound. It has been said that he sold the plants for one dollar each (a hefty sum in the '40s) and paid off his mortgage in six years. Thus, the name Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes.

Reviews of Mortgage Lifters are generally less than favorable. They’ve been described as mushy and of mediocre quality and flavor. At best, they are described as a good utility tomato for canning and juicing. One reviewer said the taste was contingent upon the spices and other ingredients added to the canned tomatoes when they are served. Yet, these are the tomatoes customers want.

By midsummer, customers are demanding half-runner beans. This preference for beans with coarse strings, which are often tough even after hours of cooking, baffles me. Half-runners have little taste on their own and take hours to prepare. The cooking time is usually so long that there is no nutrition left when they are done.

If the beans are even slightly over-mature, they must be shelled. The inside beans are called “shellies.” They have tough skins, too. One is cautioned never to pickle this type of bean, because the interior will never absorb the brine, which results in tasteless, chewy, pickled beans.

I, and many young gardeners, prefer the newer variety of bush beans. One needs only snap the stem end and they are ready to cook in a variety of ways. Beans like Blue Lake, Jade and Topcrop are tender, flavorful and meaty.

We planted a second crop of bush beans this year and they are still producing. I have been experimenting with several new recipes. Bush beans have fabulous flavor and rival pole beans in many ways.

Whether a gardener or customer, I encourage you to try the new varieties of beans, tomatoes and corn that have become favorites in the gardening and culinary world.

Green Beans and Mushrooms


1 pound thin green beans

3 slices thick-cut bacon

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1 small onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 tablespoon fresh marjoram

½ tablespoon lemon zest

2 ounces goat cheese

Salt and pepper


Blanch green beans in boiling, salted water for about 6 to 8 minutes until bright green and crisp tender. Drain and set aside.

In a skillet, cook bacon until browned and crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve 2 tablespoons drippings in pan.

Add sliced onions to skillet and cook until golden. With a slotted spoon, remove to paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Add the beans, garlic and mushrooms to remaining drippings in skillet. (You may have to add a teaspoon of additional oil if the pan is dry.) Cook for about 5 to 8 minutes, until mushrooms are cooked. Add marjoram and lemon zest to the pan and heat through, tossing, for about 3 minutes.

Transfer bean mixture to a platter and top with crumbled bacon, fried onions, goat cheese and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.

For questions about recipes or other information, contact Susan Maslowski at or go to Susan also has a Farmer’s Table Facebook page.

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