As in, when mom and dad and their friends would say, “I’ve got a whole mess a’ beans out there waitin’ to be picked.”
As a kid, I always just assumed it meant a lot, many. At least, that what it felt like when I had to help break them before the adults did the canning.
According to some online sources, including the “Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English,” a mess is a collection or portion sufficient for a meal. If you consider the typical size of a traditional agrarian family when the term was coined, I suppose a mess is a substantial amount.
At any rate, the rains and warm weather did my backyard garden good, and I picked what I would call a mess of beans last week.
The rattlesnake pole beans I planted came out hot and heavy, becoming my first produce of the year.
I like this bean variety because it’s so nice to look at. It blooms with an abundance of delicate purple flowers, and the bean pod is stippled with the same purple, making for a snakeskin look that gives it its name. It’s also especially tasty.
After filling a grocery bag from the stalks on the five poles I set out, I tried out a simple recipe I’d been holding back for some fresh beans.
Steam the green beans like normal, in about a half inch of water, keeping them still a little crisp, then toss them in olive oil, sprinkle feta cheese over them and squeeze just a bit of fresh lemon juice on top.
My wife and I, both feta fetishists, liked the refreshing tang of the cheese and the tart of the lemon on a hot day. We ate it with lemon pepper chicken and rice, a perfect companion.
Elsewhere in the garden, the tomatoes are finally starting to bloom after a late planting, and the zucchini should have a couple of squash any day now.
The watermelons, which were put into the ground even later than the tomatoes, are putting out some strong vines and already had their first rounds of male flowers. I hope to see some fruit on them soon.
Until then, if you know anybody who needs a mess of beans, send ‘em my way.