Friday, April 27, 2012


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (4/25/12)

Several days after turning 85 last April 7, I was fiddling around with my resumé, thinking I might apply for a job teaching writing when meine Űberfrau interrupted my reveries, “Do you really want to go back to work?” I quoted Andrés Segovia in reply, “I will have eternity to rest.”

Always with the last word, she added, “Do you really want some 35 year old administrator telling you how to teach writing?” No, I don’t, so I went back to my obituary. An obituary is pretty much the same thing as a résumé only a résumé is a narrative of hope while an obituary is one of ironies.

One of the ironies as we grow older is that we believe less and less but deeper and deeper. We shed things that aren’t worth carrying around anymore. As they say, travel light. This applies as much to mental luggage as it does to stuff. William of Occam, a fourteenth century English philosopher, said it well, “entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity.” In other words, keep it as simple as possible.

A remaining simplicity is elegance. So much of life is tawdry, boring, and ordinary that a touch of elegance and grace is a brightness that makes life a delight. Snap beans are a delight and are easy to grow in Flagstaff. The fancy ones are just as easy to grow as the same-olds, so why grow ordinary? It costs about a dollar more a packet to upgrade from coach to first-class.

One of the fanciest is the aristocratic wax bean, Beurre de Rocquencourt, butter of Rocquencourt, a town in France known for its high quality vegetables. Introduced into France about 1840 from Algeria, it was known as Haricot d’Alger.

With a delectable buttery taste, the pods can either be eaten raw right off the bush or lightly poached and should be picked when no larger than a pencil. When cooked, they don’t wimp out but retain their snap. The more they’re picked, the more they produce. When dried, the seeds or black beans can be used in soup or as refried beans.

The next classy snap bean is the Maxibel, a dark green filet, a genuine haricot vert with mottled seeds. With an exquisite flavor, it’s tender with a firm texture. Its pods are about 7 inches long. In addition to be a delight to the eye, it is a delight to the tongue. These beans are long, slim, and elegant. Blanched, thrown with butter and slivered almonds and strewn uncut across a plate, they add a touch of class.

The Maxi is another green filet, only the Maxi is a teepee type bean. The beans grow on the top of the bush so that they’re easier to pick. About an inch shorter than the Maxibel, they have the same exquisite flavor and are elegant addition to a plate. If unavailable locally, these three beans can be obtained from

Finally, the Comtesse de Chambord, an elfin bean. Its four inch sweet and tender, small pods can be eaten raw. Too delicate for commercial production, it can be home-grown in a protected location, well-staked, possibly in a container. The bush is only 8 to 12 inches high. With a rich and nutty taste, these beans would add a touch of class to any meal. The seeds can be ordered from

Growing bush beans is easy. The seeds should be planted about an inch and a half deep and about six to eight inches apart in full or partial sun. The soil should be friable, rich in organic matter with good drainage and should be kept moist but not wet. A commercial fertilizer of 10-20-10 is best because phosphorus, the P in the NPK acronym, aids in the growth of the beans. The bush grows to be about two feet tall. The best planting time is when the temperature of the soil is a consistent 65°F., about the middle of May in the high country. They can be planted every two weeks ensuring a supply of beans throughout the summer. Chic jardinage! Bon appétit!

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2012

Dana Prom Smith edits Gardening Etcetera for the Arizona Daily Sun. His email address is and his blog is


Jan Busco said...

Nicely written. Don't work on the obituary too soon. You definitely have my mouth watering for some delicious tender rare green beans.

Elizabeth said...

So I'm sure it's a typo but it's ensuring, not insuring.