Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I Want To Swim In Blue Lake Beans

Photo courtesy Getty Images

In my mind, this is the origins of the Blue Lake bean:

A young man gets lost in a forest, surrounded by trees appearing to scale the heavens. One couldn’t really tell, for sure, how high the trees grew because the misty fog shrouded where the trees began and ended.

Disoriented and aching with hunger, the man discovers an opening among the trees and finds before him an expansive, tranquil lake—the water as blue as cobalt but clear as ice. He strips off his weary clothes and dives into the refreshing water, which soothes his tired muscles.

“Who swims in my lake?” came a voice from the trees.

“Who’s there?” says the young man.

“Who swims in my lake?” repeats the voice.

“Dude, can the Oz trip and come out where I can see you,” says the man, peering through the trees in search of the cameras from a cable reality show.

“I know not this Oz dude. I am the man of the lake, and you are trespassing.”

“Sorry, I’m lost,” says the bewildered young man. “And I’m hungry. I’ll be on my way. You wouldn’t happen to have any truffles in your forest? I’d even go for some black Mission figs?”

“All I have is a bean,” says the man of the lake. “Now be gone.”

The young man got out of the lake and next to his pile of clothes he found one green bean on the ground. He picked it up and examined it, then waved it in the air. “What da … Is this all you’ve got? This ain’t Jack.”

Tired and frustrated, the young man put on his clothes and went on his way, the single green bean tucked in his shirt pocket. When he finally found the main highway, he sat on the edge and waited for a car to pass by. He took out the bean, looked at it and then took a bite. The crunch was deafening, and the watery texture and sweetness of the bean transported him back to the refreshing, expansive blue lake. But this time swimming with him were his childhood friends as they laughed and played in the blue lake on a perfect summer afternoon.

Now wasn’t that more interesting than saying Blue Lake beans were developed in Ukiah, Calif.?

Recently, I started noticing restaurants serving Blue Lake beans on their menu and was curious about why they were so popular. When I was at the Ferry Plaza farmers’ market in San Francisco recently, I saw Blue Lake beans at the Iacopi Farm stand. I bought a bunch and brought it home to try.

They had such a crispy snap to them that I thought it would be a shame to cook the beans to death. That’s when I decided to make spicy green beans. This recipe is served cold, with the green beans quickly blanched, so that you can really enjoy the crunchy, watery sweetness of the Blue Lake bean. This really isn’t your ordinary green bean. I have drunk the water from the Blue Lake and I am a believer.


Alison said...

Blue Lake beans were developed in Ukiah?!?! Mendocino County representing! I knew my people were agriculturally astute, it's just not beans one tends to think of as the crop of the county. :)

Chef Ben said...

Yes, Alison, you have a lot to be proud of. Blue Lake beans, according to a 1996 Sunset Magazine article I read, were grown in the Blue Lake District of Ukiah, Calif., and were used primiarily for canning. Back then it wasn't so gourmet. Then the beans flourished when farmers started growing them in Western Oregon. So we have the Californians and Oregonians to thank for giving us this crunchy, delicious bean.

Thank you for listening. That concludes our history lesson for the day. :)