beans and potatoes

The most striking thing I have learned about Kentuckians and vegetables is that Kentuckians really, really like green beans. They eat them in much larger quantities than people do in any other place I’ve lived, and they often have decided views about which varieties are best or when the best time to pick them is. And, no, people do not agree about these matters.

Anyway, some people will be pleased to know that I’ll have the first green beans of the season this week. These are Contenders, and, despite, the name, they are not a contender for being the best green beans. Some of the pole beans later in the season will be better. But Contenders are earlier than most other varieties, and they will taste a good deal better than the green straw harvested by machine and shipped thousands of miles that is commonly sold for some mysterious reason.

You’ll notice that I used a variety name in the previous paragraph that produce buyers don’t often see (‘Contender’). There are way more varieties than is usually realized — there are thousands of varieties of beans, for example — and using the variety name helps you know what exactly it is that you’re getting. Differences aren’t always that great. I also sometimes grow Provider beans as an early variety, and I don’t think they’re all that different from Contenders. But sometimes there are significant differences that get obscured if variety names are ignored.

Case in point: potatoes. Again, there are hundreds of varieties. But walk into a grocery store and you’ll typically see white and red potatoes, plus perhaps some russets and Yukon Golds. But “white” and “red” are not varieties. They’re colours, and colours are a fairly superficial characteristic, biologically speaking, often switched by a single gene and typically separable from other characteristics you might care about. In other words, not all red potatoes are going to taste like “red potatoes.”

This is why I like to use more precise variety names when talking about potatoes. I sometimes grow other varieties, too, but the ones you’ll most commonly see on my table are Carola, Purple Majesty, and Red Gold. Carola are a gold or yellow potato like Yukon Gold but with a more elongated shape and, I think, an even more buttery flavour. These were my daughter’s favourite in a taste test a couple of years ago. Purple Majesty are purple both outside and inside, great for making some unusual mashed potatoes. Red Golds are a variety you’re unlikely to see in a store — they don’t produce well and they don’t store well — but I think their flavour makes up for those drawbacks. I can’t think of a better variety for roasting. As the name might suggest, they’re gold on the inside, not white like the more common red varieties such as Norland or Pontiac.

Okay, that’s enough rambling for one week. — Sydney

This week’s items

Items we plan to have at the market this week (an asterisk indicates unusually limited quantities):

  • Beans, Dry (assorted varieties, including Peregion, Red Kidney, and Tiger’s Eye)
  • Beans, Snap (Contender)
  • Beets (Chioggia, Touchstone Gold, and Merlin)
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Collards
  • Cowpeas, Dry (Black Crowder and Calico Crowder)
  • Cucumbers*
  • Dry beans and cowpeas (assorted varieties, including Tiger’s Eye beans, Peregion beans, Red Kidney beans, Pinto beans, and Black Crowder peas)
  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Granola (Pecan Cushaw Granola)*
  • Herb plants
  • Kale
  • Lavender
  • Lettuce* (Butterhead, Devil’s Ear, Romaine)
  • Onions (Candy and Red Candy)
  • Pea shoots
  • Peppers* (cream bell, green bell, Jalapeno)
  • Potatoes (Carola, Purple Majesty, and Red Gold)
  • Summer Squash (Yellow Crookneck, Zucchini)

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