Local pickling culture got a boost this week with the arrival of fat and crisp pickling cucumbers and a huge variety of green and yellow beans. This may not be good news to the pickle phobic -- yes, it is real -- but for the growing number of people still riding the home canning and preserving wave, it's great news as they likely ran out of their last batch of refrigerator pickles and dilly beans back in November.
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You really can pickle any kind of cucumber, though we've tried it with mixed results on thin skinned Persian and Japanese style cucumbers. But in order to get that almost cliché crunch of a good dill sour, you need the blocky and bumpy pickling cucumber. Its thin skin will be mostly green, with some pale yellow coloring on the ground side or blossom end of the cuke. And because they have a tendency to grow into too-huge-for-canning behemoths if left on the vine, they'll be harvested continuously from now until fall. Whether you decide to go with the old school brine and ferment method or a quick and dirty refrigerator brine, the results will far surpass any supermarket jar of spears in quality and flavor. For kicks, color your pickle brine with a little turmeric or beet juice.
Green beans or snap beans are actually the immature pods of their particular variety (Blue Lake, Marvel of Venice, Yard Long, Scarlet Runner, to name a few) and are eaten for their stringless and fleshy pods. Most people will steam or fry or stuff them into a casserole, but we sometimes get a little nostalgic for a glass jar of grandma's dilly beans. The varieties will only increase as summer continues. A little basic farmers market etiquette may be in order while going through the piles of beans not already bagged up for easy sale. Make room for others looking to comb through the pile. Generally speaking, people keep their picking confined to their arbitrarily defined area until their neighbor vacates the pile or finishes picking. If you feel you've been waiting a bit long and are pressed for time, don't be afraid to ask for some elbow room at the table -- market folk are a polite breed. Unless it's Thanksgiving season, then all bets are off.