Here's the thing about living and eating frugal - you can save the environment at the same time. So how do I figure that? Well, the lightbulb went off while picking green and yellow (wax) beans the other day - it was a dim bulb, but it flashed nonetheless. My first priority for food right now is that it's healthy, second is that it's cheap. Luckily for me one of our local 'U-Pick' farms is happy to fill both of those requirements, with a little work from me. A half grocery bag of string beans (green and yellow or wax beans) cost me $2.20 and took a little less than 10 minutes to pick. The more I pick, the cheaper it gets - in fact, if I had picked a half bushel it would have cost roughly a dollar more. Lesson number two for the day - ask the prices before you pick. How does this save the environment? Eating locally grown produce is a fantastic way to reduce fuels used in trucking, commercial canning or freezing, and you support local farmers - all great ways to do a little part for our community.
Finding a u-pick farm can be a little challenging, but I really think it's worth the time and effort to find one. You also have to find a farm that you like - I personally, for all my environmental stand, really prefer that my raspberries and broccoli are grown with pesticides. Yes, I know I'm a hypocrite and I'm working on it but I just hate bugs. If I could find a farm that grew organically I would give them a try, I just haven't found one yet. So find a farm you like that has what you want to pick.
String beans, also known as green or yellow or wax beans, are easy to pick and preserve. My preferred way of preserving them is to blanch then freeze them. Blanching means a brief blast of heat - either from boiling water or steam - then quickly cooling before freezing. It really is a necessary step for most vegetables.
Here is a 'recipe' for freezing beans:
Frozen Green/Yellow/Wax Beans
Large pot of boiling water with lid
strainer or colander
sink full of ice water (use lots of ice - as many trays as you can, a big bag is better)
cookie sheets (for flash freezing)
beans - topped and tailed and washed, ready for blanching
Bring water to a rolling boil on top of the stove. A rolling boil is one in which the 'boil' can't be stirred down with a spoon - so if you put a wooden spoon in the water and give it a stir, the water should keep right on rolling and bubbling around it. Drop about 3 good double handfuls of beans into the water. SET YOUR TIMER - blanch for 1 minute ONLY. Let me repeat that - ONE minute of life in the boiling water. Remove immediate using tongs or a slotted spoon and put into the ice water. Put the lid back on the pot and bring the same water back to a rolling boil (it takes about a minute). Repeat step one - three or so double handfuls of beans in the boiling water and set the timer.
In the one minute of time while the beans are blanching, remove the other beans from the ice water and onto tea towels to drain. You could also use a collander for this, but I like tea towels. Remove the second group of beans to the ice water, adding more ice as needed so the water is freezing cold, and bring the pot of water back up to a boil. Repeat until all your beans are done.
Lay the beans on a cookie sheet, and place in a chest freezer uncovered to flash freeze them. I tried chilling and bagging the beans, but the flash freeze method seems to work the best. Freeze the beans until frozen solid, about 4 hours or overnight, then bag them into freezer bags and label. One half grocery bag gave me one large Ziploc bag of frozen bean, but I did eat two meals out of the fresh beans before I froze them. Happy canning - or freezing, as the case may be!