“Year of the Green Beans,” Ensign, July 1983, 48–49
“Just keep the beans picked so they’ll still be producing when I get back.” With those words, my friend Karen went to Idaho to visit, leaving me with her large garden. That was early in the summer of 1975 in Oklahoma City. I had agreed to tend Karen’s garden in return for the vegetables it produced, a way to supplement my own family’s food storage. At the time I thought it was a good idea.
The next day I took six large grocery bags and one small son to the garden. Before long, the bags overflowed with beans. Vegetables are best when preserved fresh, so we hurried home to snap beans and fill jars. At 2:00 A.M. the next morning my tired eyes viewed rows of jars filled with beans. I felt weary, but satisfied.
The glow lasted two days until I went again to the garden, this time with one son and three daughters. We came home with three large laundry baskets of beans, and canned into the night. The children became experts at cleaning and cutting beans—and muttering.
I bought more metal shelves for my storage closet. Soon they were filled with beans. My non-gardening neighbors chuckled as every other day we lugged bushels of beans from the car. I wasn’t laughing. I was tired, and sick of beans! Yet, I felt compelled to keep on canning. And I did want the beans to be bearing when Karen came home.
After twenty-one days and 216 quarts of beans, she returned to harvest her own crop. In the meantime, I’d bought more shelves, more jars. One whole closet was filled with beans; every time I opened the closet door, I had mixed feelings of satisfaction and puzzlement. We just didn’t like beans that much.
The next few months brought a pregnancy, along with some unexpected changes in our lives. When a promotion and relocation in Texas with my husband’s company fell through, we decided to move back to the upper midwest of our growing-up years and purchase our own business. We’d already sold our house, so the decision wasn’t hard to make.
What a plunge! We sold possessions and packed only needed furniture and our large food supply into a truck. With a grain of faith that we’d be sustained, we headed for Illinois.
The Illinois years couldn’t be called prosperous. We worked hard, but the business didn’t thrive. We learned to do without and to appreciate what we did have. We clung to each other, and to our new baby daughter—a reminder of our Heavenly Father’s goodness to us. And we ate green beans.
How many ways are there to serve green beans? There were soups, salads, casseroles, souffles. They went with wheat, rice, and everything else. If any were left, they were pureed and baked into bread. Oddly, never in two years did we tire of beans. They were truly delicious and nourishing beyond what my nutrition education told me they should be.
At the end of two years and the last jar of beans, a new career for my husband brought us to Wisconsin and a more successful venture. I called my friend in Oklahoma to thank her for those lifesaving beans. She said, “It’s funny. I’ve never had beans grow like those. I wonder what happened that year?”
We still like green beans, but we don’t eat them as often. Once in a while I do get a request for “that good bean soup with a little cheese in it”—the soup God provided.