We’ve established a tradition down here at the orchard: eating nachos during pruning season. I hadn’t even realized it was a tradition until Mike came in the other week and said “I’m in the mood for nachos.” Then I realized: we’d created an association between pruning and nachos.
Let me explain.
During our first season of pruning in 2010, we were living with Mike’s parents in Plymouth and commuting to the orchard on weekends. We’d pack food for the day, prune, take breaks in the car during the coldest weather, and head home after it got dark. Around this same time, my co-worker from Louisiana gave me her recipe for red beans and rice. I’ve always been a fan of minimal input/high output cooking and these beans fit the bill. I’d make them on Friday and we’d eat them on Saturdays and Sundays when we got home. But instead of serving them with rice, we’d serve them over tortilla chips with cheese, green onions, cilantro, and salsa. Somehow, vast quantities of salsa made the whole meal seem healthier.
In spring of 2010, I planted cranberry, French horticultural, and black tortoise soup beans in the garden and ended up with bumper crop of them — actually, two bumper crops. I picked the first crop before the apple season began, shelled them, and stored them for the winter. Those were the beans I ended up using for our nacho beans during the 2011 pruning season. The second crop ripened later and I didn’t pick them until the apple season was over. They’ve been sitting, unshelled, in a bucket until now.
I’m not sure why I didn’t shell them immediately, but it probably had something to do with exhaustion after our first full season at the orchard. And then there was always something more urgent to do when living in a 118-year old house, when trying to steward 20 acres and 1000 apple trees, when we had a baby . . .so they sat. And they looked bad.
Honestly, I think I was afraid to shell them only to find that they’d actually molded on the vine before I picked them. And since everything I harvested out of that garden was hard won thanks to a never ending battle with weeds, I didn’t want to face the disappointment. So I did nothing and retained the promise of sound beans.
But then Mike came in wanting nachos and I had no beans in the house except my garden beans. So I started shelling them and I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, some were dried up and others were a little moldy, but the mold hadn’t travelled and I got a few decent looking beans and more than a few slightly shriveled looking beans.
At this point I figured I had nothing to lose, so I started cooking them.
I usually use the “quick soak” method that involves soaking the beans in salted boiled water for two hours. After that, I guessed it would take a minimum of another two hours of cooking to make them edible. And after that, I wasn’t counting on anything great. Just some subsistence beans that would tide us over until I got to the grocery store. Boy, was I surprised.
First of all, it took just about an hour for the beans to cook. And second of all, they were creamy and delectable. If my 18-month old beans turned out this tasty, I shuddered to think how old the beans must be on the shelf at the grocery store.
So now I’m shelling the rest of my 2010 garden beans and they should last us through the rest of the 2012 pruning season. It’s the perfect thing to do while watching a six-month old and the task’s made much more pleasant knowing how tasty they’ll turn out to be. I buy my bean seeds from Sandhill Preservation Center and haven’t been disappointed by them two years in a row now. They require a trellis but they grow like gangbusters out here.
My co-worker’s red bean recipe works well with red beans, black beans, cranberry beans or any kind of soup beans, really, and is easily made (and still tasty) without meat.
1 pound beans, prepared with the two hour quick soak or an overnight soak
Enough water to cover the soaked beans by a couple of inches
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 to 1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 lb. sausage of your choice, sliced or whole
2 tsp vinegar
Salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste
- Cook the beans alone in the water for a couple of hours until they’re soft.
- Add veggies, spices, and sausage and cook for another couple of hours or until the beans start falling apart.
- Use a potato masher right in the pot to mash some beans to your desired consistency.
- Add vinegar at the end of cooking, or just use hot sauce to taste.
P.S. Mike took the video camera out with him pruning the other day and caught some hilarious footage of Fletcher “helping” him prune. You can see it on our Facebook page.