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.
I brought everything to a boil over medium heat, then adjusted the flame down to maintain a simmer before putting a lid on the beans. It was about an hour and a half later, with about a cup of additional water, before the beans were mealtime ready. They were everything I could imagine and then some.
We had just enough left over to enjoy a small serving for lunch the next day. What a treat — fresh cooked pintos with ham is even better the second time around as the flavors marry like magic in the refrigerator overnight.
They are a must-try if you get a chance to enjoy the Wednesday or Saturday OSU-OKC Farmers Market.
If you are in the Shawnee area, stop by the Crow’s Main Fruit and Vegetable Market, 730 E Main St.
Looking at their Facebook page and the beautiful photos posted there, it is easy to see why the Crow Family Farms and their involvement in the Oklahoma Farm to School Program was featured in first lady Michelle Obama’s book: “American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Gardens and Gardens Across America.”
I am planning an outing to Shawnee, where the Crow family has an in-town market full of its garden-fresh produce. Along the way, I will probably pick up some honey and blackberry jam from the monk’s garden at St. Gregory’s Abbey and replenish our dwindling supply of pecans from Valley View Pecan Co.