Beyond the bean: half-runners


The next time you are trying to get to know a person, ask this important question: What’s your favorite kind of bean?

No, really. I think the question tells a lot about a person. Much like categorizing people as cat-lovers, baseball fans, John Deere drivers, or Nicholas Sparks readers, a person’s bean preference may indicate something more.

According to a few different bean-grower association websites, there are an estimated 400 varieties of edible beans, but don’t fret if you can’t name that many. Only a few—like seven or 10—actually make it to our grocery shelves.

My favorite kind of beans are half-runners, a type of the common green or snap bean. While I enjoy the taste, I’m emotionally invested in their tradition. I remember the winding road to my grandparents’ home in Johnson County. I spent hours pacing the paths in Popaw’s garden as my parents and older brother picked Silver Queen corn, Early Girl tomatoes, Straight 8 cukes, Wonder bell peppers, and—of course—half-runner beans.

Later, when I was supposed to be in bed, I would listen to my parents chatting in their first uninterrupted hours of the busy day. Eventually, I was lulled to a peaceful sleep by the happy sound of snapping, stringing, and sweetness. My Nan would spend the entire next day over a pot of beans, simmering and popping in bacon drippings as my parents prepared to can the rest.

When it comes to choosing a favorite, folks have an array of options for bean size, shape, color, texture, and taste. Even more variety comes into play when we think about how the beans are prepared: chili, soup, baked, refried, casseroled, sautéed, etc. The most consumed type of the nutritional staple of diets worldwide surely depends upon geographical availability, but a favorite—like all favorites—is probably attached to a memory.

Whether pinto beans or chili brings to mind cool nights and football games, or black-eyed peas reminds you of your superstitious aunt, preferences are pinned to impressionable, memorable moments.

Wishing you a bountiful harvest of good memories tableside and beyond the bean.

Neena Gaynor is a Kentucky wife, mother, daughter and beekeeper who does life in Owensboro. She also writes on her blog at and can be reached via email at


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