Produce harvested at its peak is your sure bet for flavor and freshness.
By Barbara Kobsar | Illustration by Charmaine Koehler-Lodge
Snap Beans & Shell Beans
Now is the time to scoop up fresh beans at your farmers’ market. Both edible-pod snap beans and shell beans (those you have to shell) are ubiquitous through the summer months.
Snap beans (also called string beans) are harvested when they are young and their pods are still edible. You’ll find many colors—green, purple, yellow (wax beans), and even speckled—as well as many shapes: Look for skinny haricots verts, wide and flat Romanos, and super-long Asian varieties. All can be served steamed, stir-fried, or raw, and all will tempt your palate in side dishes and salads or with dips.
Shell beans hold their goodness inside their pods. Available in late summer and early autumn, they have a sweet and creamy taste that can’t be matched by dried beans. Edamame (immature soybeans), Italian butter beans (a type of lima bean), and the beautiful red speckled cranberry beans (borlotti) are varieties to look for. You might also find fresh fava (broad beans), chickpeas (garbanzos), black beans, and scarlet runners sold in their shells.
Microgreens & Sprouts
Want to learn more about the tiny greens you’re seeing more and more often at markets? Visit Metta Micros at the Walnut Creek Sunday market for Vidisha Salunke and Somesh Dhawas’s eye-catching display of pea, mustard, mung bean, broccoli, beet, and arugula microgreens and sprouts. These owner/growers use all organic seeds (and soil) for their year-round production of microgreens and sprouts.
Sprouts are grown in jars, and you eat both the seed and the plant. They require a lot of care to grow, since they have to be rinsed three times a day. But the process is quick—three to five days from soaked seeds to sprouts—and growing them can be a kid-friendly project.
Microgreens take between one and two weeks for the greens to be market ready. They are sold either as living trays (growing in soil or another medium) or cut and packed, ready to serve in salads, on top of pizzas, or in sushi rolls.
Metta Micros’s tagline is “microgreens for special beings.” With this relatively new venture, Salunke and Dhawas hope to enable their autistic son, Sohum, develop valuable life skills. He is passionate about his work and helps weigh seeds, water, and label. ´
Veteran journalist Barbara Kobsar has authored two cookbooks focusing on traditional home-cooked meals using local produce. You’ll find her each Sunday at the Walnut Creek market and on Saturdays at the Orinda and San Ramon markets selling her Cottage Kitchen jams and jellies made from farmers’ market produce.
Artist Charmaine Koehler-Lodge grows most of her family’s food in their rural Pennsylvania garden.
Shell Bean & Microgreens Crostini
Makes about 20 crostini
1 cup cooked shell beans
½ cup extra virgin olive oil (divided)
¼ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
¼ teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1½–2 cups microgreens (broccoli, sunflower, or arugula)
1 garlic clove, halved crosswise
Add beans to a food processor and pulse until very coarsely chopped. Transfer half of the mixture to a bowl. Add ¼ cup olive oil, cheese, lemon zest and juice, salt, and pepper to the beans and purée until smooth. Empty the mixture into a bowl and gently fold in half the microgreens.
Cut baguette into ¼-inch slices and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush both sides of the slices using ¼ cup olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in 350° oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. When the slices are cool enough to handle, rub with cut side of garlic. Cool. Spoon bean mixture onto baguette toasts and top with microgreens.