August is winding down to its final weeks, but we’re still savoring the flavors of summer harvests.
I was thrilled at the green beans, sweet corn, butter beans, cucumbers and watermelon that I found in a recent Robeson County Farmers Market CSA basket, and inwardly groaned over the okra.
Having grown vegetable gardens in the past, I have always approached okra with a bit of uncertainty. As a youth, I didn’t realize you had to pick it before it had a chance to toughen. As a crazy-busy mom of four, I didn’t always make it to the garden on a daily basis, so the pods would get tough and chewy.
“Waste not, want not” was Grandma Mecham’s mantra, and I have tried to live by it. So, I’d pick through the okra to determine what was tender enough to use and what would be scrapped to the chicken pen. Sometimes I got it all just right. Sometimes I was spitting out the tough stuff.
Fortunately, some wonderful Robeson County farmers know how to pick ‘em, and I wasn’t let down with the tender green pods that were nestled in my basket.
In an age of low-fat, no-fat, grilled, broiled and organic cooking, fat back simply oozes indulgence. However, in this southern butter beans and okra recipe, it serves as an enhancement, not a main ingredient.
I could almost hear a southern drawl when I read “a little sugar” in the ingredient list, and in the spirit of wasting not, I tossed in the remaining few okra pods, even though the recipe only calls for eight to 12. I ignored the “1 package frozen or fresh butter beans.” After all, I had just — insert southern accent here — worked my fingers to the bone shellin’ the fresh beans in my basket.
The aroma that filled my kitchen took my mind back to summers in Grandma’s kitchen. The only thing missing was skillet baked cornbread.
In the next week’s basket, along with more tender okra, tomatoes, zucchini and squash, were about a dozen lovely bell peppers — green, yellow and red.
The versatile, crispy fruit makes for a colorful display whether on fresh salads or stuffed, baked and topped with cheese.
A combination of cooked long grain rice, browned ground beef or ground turkey, seasonings and tomato sauce is a savory stuffing for bell peppers. Basting with the remaining tomato sauce seals in moisture and adds flavor, and the cheese — well, that was my own improvement for an already tasty dish.
Reach Juanita Lagrone at email@example.com or 910-416-5865.