I’ve always loved them. Long, broad, and flat, Romano beans look like professionally ironed versions of their string bean cousins. They were called “Italian beans” when I was growing up, only available frozen and always on a hit and miss basis. They’re still hard to find fresh, except for a few weeks in late July and early August when they briefly put in an appearance at gourmet groceries and farmers markets and are immediately snapped up. As they should be: they’re delicious and versatile and can be charred, grilled, sautéed, boiled, overcooked without losing they’re taste and texture, or just eaten raw right off the vine. I try to grow vegetables that are at their best picked fresh: arugula, cherry tomatoes, baby lettuces, and haricot verts. This year, with some trepidation, I decided to try my hand at Romano beans. Surely they must be hard to grow; why else would they be in such short supply? But each of the caplet-sized rose pink Hart’s seeds I pushed an inch or two into the soil in mid May has shot up to form ten-inch-high bushes, dangling beautifully formed pale green beans. And they keep on coming. Several weeks of side dishes are hidden away in the tangle of leaves and pods that have commandeered a corner of the vegetable garden.
Here’s an easy and delicious recipe from Bon Appétit for grilling Romanos (or any string bean) followed by an appreciation of the vegetable by Mary Oliver.
½ garlic clove, grated
½ lemon (peel and all), sliced, seeds removed, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound Romano beans, trimmed
½ pound fresh mozzarella, coarsely torn
½ cup torn fresh basil leaves
Prepare a grill for medium-high — or heat up a grill pan. Toss garlic, lemon, lemon juice, and 3 Tbsp. oil in a small bowl; season dressing with salt and pepper. Toss beans on a baking sheet with a little oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill until lightly charred on 1 side and crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter.
Top beans with mozzarella, drizzle with dressing, and scatter basil over. (Dressing can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.)
by Mary Oliver
They’re not like peaches or squash.
Plumpness isn’t for them. They like
being lean, as if for the narrow
path. The beans themselves sit qui-
etly inside their green pods. In-
stinctively one picks with care,
never tearing down the fine vine,
never not noticing their crisp bod-
ies, or feeling their willingness for
the pot, for the fire.
I have thought sometimes that
something―I can’t name it―
watches as I walk the rows, accept-
ing the gift of their lives to assist
I know what you think: this is fool-
ishness. They’re only vegetables.
Even the blossoms with which they
begin are small and pale, hardly sig-
nificant. Our hands, or minds, our
feet hold more intelligence. With
this I have no quarrel.
But, what about virtue?
Wonderful. I love Mary Oliver’s poetry and I loved this one.
Thank you Cheryl!