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A rare treat of pintos in the pod is in season

Sherrel Jones writes about a recent trip to the farmers market that presented her with fresh pinto beans.
BY SHERREL JONES, Modified: July 8, 2014 at 2:47 pm •  Published: July 9, 2014

A box filled with long pale-green pods mottled with hot pink spots caught my eye on a recent visit to the Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City Farmers Market.

The pods were so beautiful I would have bought them just to look at.

I sacked up one of the large plastic bags provided by Crow Farms of Shawnee and took them to their checkout, where I asked, “What kind of beans are these?”

“Pintos,” was the answer, to my shock.

I had never seen or cooked fresh pintos, but I was already thinking about how they would taste. A bean lover from way back, I grew up having navy beans and cornbread every Saturday and pintos once a week in our school cafeteria. Of course, those were dried beans cooked into juicy submission by our cafeteria lunch ladies and served with a side of spinach, cornbread and a sugar-crusted peach cobbler for dessert.

On pinto bean days, I cleaned my plate, including that green glob of spinach I doused with hot pepper sauce. I was conjuring how I would shell and cook them, thinking about shelling beans and black-eyed peas with my grandmother. We would sit in the glider on her front porch with bowls in our laps, a pile of beans between us and newspaper spread out to catch the hulls.

I was looking forward to the shelling, wondering what the beans inside those pods were going to look like. I didn’t wait long after driving home to Enid. I sat down and began the process. The empty pods would add some great fuel to our compost.

Those beans were as pretty as the pod. Most of them were pale green with pink patches and a few near solid deep pink ones sprinkled in. I may just plant pintos in our fall garden.

Pot of plenty

Here’s how I cooked them: Small chunks of ham with slices of garden-fresh onion sauteed in a oil-seasoned medium-size saucepan. Once the ham began to caramelize on the edges and the onions started softening, I added a quart of fat-free chicken stock and then those lovely beans. After shelling that large bag of them, I had about a quart, or four cups, of beans. They would expand some during the cooking, but I was already wishing I had bought more.

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