Posted by / Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Simple Southern Pole Beans

Growing up I remember many things about by maternal grandparents, mostly centered around a river house they owned and lived at in Coles Point, Virginia. There were many memories and during the summer we would visit the river house almost every weekend. My brother and I would even get the opportunity to spend a week or two at a time which I will assume was as much of a vacation for us as it was for my parents.

What do I remember? I remember fishing from sun up to sun down, my grandmother standing waist-deep right beside us, casting into the water and catching stiff back perch for dinner. We'd mark duck eggs the night before, then run down the next morning and grab the unmarked freshest ones for breakfast. I remember the first beer I had with my dad (not my first beer, but the first one I had with dad), and my grandfather's huge (to me) garden. We'd shell butter beans and snap string beans under several Japanese lantern trees late in the evening as the breeze came in off the Potomac. I remember my grandfather's vegetable soup, especially in the winter, because he would make the soup with fresh summer vegetables, canning it to enjoy later in the year — and to this day I still haven't had anything that could touch it. 

What brought on all of these memories you might ask? Simply put — pole beans. Although what I got in my CSA last week was technically Romano beans, they still triggered the memory of my grandmother cooking pole beans. It was a simple dish and what I loved the most was that they were such a hearty bean — nothing like a puny green bean you typically see in the store. 

Now that I have walked you down my memory lane let's cook a simple pot of pole beans, ahem Romano beans.

  • 3-4 slices of bacon or fat meat
  • 1 pound of Pole, Romano or Runner flat beans (string beans just won't work), cleaned and ends trimmed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 small hot pepper
  • Water

Cook the bacon or fat meat over medium heat in a deep saucepan until meat is cooked but not fried. Drain the grease, reserving 1 tablespoon. Add your beans (I had a few wax beans to use up also so tossed 'em on in) and fill with water almost to cover. Simmer slowly over medium heat until the beans are soft but not mushy, about 20 minutes. 

Strain beans and serve with the bacon while hot. 

One last fond memory of sitting down at the table with my grandfather — no matter if it was pole beans or butter beans, my grandmother would pull a small hot pepper from the freezer (that they'd grown) to serve with the dish. He'd always use the same wooden handled knife to dice the pepper with precession  — equal pieces of hot pepper to go on the beans or in the broth as an extra kick.

Again, a simple preparation of which bacon and black pepper always seem to make things taste better. After you have one of these big meaty beans, the string bean just might become a distant memory.

What fond memories do you have of past gardens as it relates to your parents or grandparents? It's a long weekend for most, so why not plan a trip to a local farmer's market or even a farm. I think you will be happy you did.

E.A.T. local E.A.T. well


  1. Your grandparent's farm sounds awesome; I'm jealous. I used to go fishing with my Pa in Arkansas. I have so many fond memories from there.

    This dish looks fantastic, thanks for sharing the recipe (and stories).

    1. Thanks Tara and food and fishing does stir up memories! Happy 4th to you and yours!


"Some people eat to live; I live to eat." -Tim Vidra

An avid home cook, I believe in using simple ingredients, local when possible and am inspired by the principles of supporting a sustainable food system. I’ve cultivated this blog as a way to share my passion for the preparation and enjoyment of food in a way that everyone from beginners to long time foodies can get involved in.



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