Now that the last beans have been picked and the plants have been pulled from the garden, I guess I had better get this post … ahhem, … posted.
How the time has flown since I took these photos! Since that day in late September, when the vines were still decorated with red blossoms, I have picked and frozen several more batches of scarlet runners. No, the hummingbirds didn’t manage to steal them all! I have been able to salvage and enjoy them at several meals, as well as freeze 9 medium-sized Zip-lock baggies full — all ready for winter meals.
You can see how big these beans grow–and no, that doesn’t mean they are tough, or stringy, or past their prime. These beans are meant to be big, and even seem to get more flavourful as they grow longer. The longest one in the basket is a whopping 12 inches long. No, I don’t let them get too plump and seedy, but none of these are at that stage — even the fatter ones are still delicious and tender.
(BTW, those that I miss — the ones that get too fat because they’ve been hiding behind the leaves, or are too high for me to reach even from the top rung of the ladder — are perfect for planting next year, or giving away in little care packages for Christmas gifts, or wedding favours. The seeds are speckled purple and brown and beige and gorgeous!)
Rather than wait until I have a big batch of beans, I usually pick, blanche and freeze them regularly in batches that will fill 2 or 3 baggies. It takes less energy than what it takes to make dinner.
I snip off the tails and stem-ends with my Cutco scissors while the pot of water is coming to a rolling boil. I also use the scissors to cut them into uneven chunks. (Whatever you do, don’t measure!) Sometimes I add some salt to the water, but usually I don’t. It doesn’t really matter. In fact, this is not something that anyone should ever fuss over. It’s no big deal!
Freezing fresh veggies from the garden is supposed to be fun and rewarding. I don’t spoil the experience by fussing over things that don’t matter.
Once the water is boiling, I throw in the beans — all at once — and let them come to a rolling boil. There should be enough water to cover them. Then I give them a couple of minutes to cook before I drain them. (Don’t fret over “a couple of minutes” because it really doesn’t matter.) It’s just like cooking veggies for dinner, except that I only partially cook them so that I can finish them off in, let’s say, January. The longer they cook before I freeze them, the less I will cook them later. I prefer slightly undercooked to overcooked. (I often pour some of the bean water into a couple of coffee cups to drink — I love the flavour. Or I can save the water for soup. Or I can throw it down the drain. Or I can just use it to wash the pot.)
When the boiling water is gone, I add cold water to the pot and a tray or two of ice cubes. I want to cool them quickly.
Then with my hands, I spread them in a thin layer on a cookie sheet lined with a dish towel, and pop them in the freezer to freeze.
Once they are frozen and dry, I loosely fill some freezer bags, squeeze out the air and seal. It’s easy to take out just exactly what I need for a meal because they are dry and in separate chunks.
Sometimes I put a date on the bag, but who cares, right? I know they were harvested in September or October of 2011. And guaranteed, they will be gone before the next harvest year.