EatGreenDFW -
Hummingbirds and Haricot vert

Hummingbirds and Haricot vert                       by Tom Motley

A few days ago, I was hand-watering the wide variety of adolescent peppers in the garden, near a tall lattice of our yellow-bloomed lemon-cucumbers. My left eye was distracted by a blur. When I raised my tri-focal glasses to mid-range, I pleasantly encountered a lovely, Ruby-throated hummingbird. The splendid, winged little creature hovered not two feet from my face. It seemed to be studying the reflective stream of water which, for all purposes in the eyes of the bird, was apparently coming out of my extended hand, and the brightly-colored whirl-a-gig, spinning just beyond. It also looked directly at my sun-burned face, so color plays a role in all the immediate visual attention of this little bird-being.

The gardens abound with buzzing, whizzing, flying and crawling critters this time of year. Understand that we do not welcome all these garden visitors with equally open arms. But I will postpone negative comments about squash-beetles till another time when I am in a less hospitable mood. The little hummingbird in my face has kept me happy for several days hence.

Again this year, the rains came exactly when needed, and the high heat held off for a while, so tomato plants across North Texas are full of fat yellow-green and orange orbs, turning red hour by hour.

Forgive me for quoting what I wrote last summer about this time of year, but my garden notes then are accurate again for DFW diners and gardeners in 2014:

“Ask your favorite restaurant about the source of the tomatoes they’re currently serving you. If those tomatoes are from, say, Guatemala, or China or California, just ask “Why aren’t they from Collin County or Hunt County or Grand Prairie, Mesquite, Duncanville, Arlington, Balch Springs, Oak Cliff, Red Oak, Waxahachie, or from any of the numerous Farmers’ Markets around DFW?” You should be eating local tomatoes this year that experienced a very short ride from the garden to your table.

Tomatoes are pretty cagey about hiding as well, incidentally. How many times have you missed a perfect tomato that stayed low to the ground, toward the center of the trunk, under massive leaf-cover, only to discover its over-ripe form too late, mutilated by an industrious Cardinal or grass-hopper? To reap a good day’s harvest of ripe tomatoes demands that you see the plants from all angles. We check ours morning and evening, because the raking light shifts, revealing red globes at one time of the day you didn’t see at another. Oh, and take off your sunglasses while hunting for tomatoes.”        [Motley, July, 2013]

Not far from my encounter with the fairy-like hummingbird, rows of Haricot vert bush beans stand about three feet tall. Flush with delicate, tasty French green beans, these beauties from our gardens have been featured by local chefs Robert Lyford (Patina Green) and Andrea Shackelford (Rick’s Chop House and Sauce) on the Square, in downtown McKinney.

This is the first year I’ve planted Haricot vert beans, as a bush variety. Chefs have asked me for these beans before, but I’ve hesitated because of my poor luck with the product at my Merit and Farmersville farms in the past. For a couple of years, I attempted pole-bean versions of this beautiful bean, with disappointing results. However, the bush-bean Haricot vert I’ve grown this year is splendid. I expect the four or five weekly harvests we’ve reaped off the self-supportive stalks are about all we’ll get this year, but what we haven’t sold has provided us with gorgeous (and delicious) thin green beans for pickling in dozens of jars.


My wife and I are big fans of Salade Nicoise. Becca and I don’t discriminate on the fish, by the way. We like tuna, left-over salmon, or anchovy fillets in this traditional green-bean salad. Incidentally, I learned long, long ago on a Julia Child PBS episode that one should soak the canned anchovies in water, drain and pat-dry in a towel, thus to remove most of the packing salt. We do this for our pizzas too. The result is yummy fish.

The concept of Salade Nicoise is practically an international institution (Non-Profit, of course). I’ve relished tasty versions of the green-bean salad as far afield as Bruges, Ravenna, Delfi, and Ft. Worth. Finally, we’ve been able to enjoy the union of our own Haricot vert beans with the required, and richly bitter-sweet, tiny French Nicoise olives.

Here’s our recipe for Salade Nicoise, from the Motley Gardens:

Oak leaf lettuce (or any leafy green) and red romaine, shredded

Haricot vert beans (thin, young green beans), blanched briefly, then chilled

A crushed garlic, rubbed liberally around the salad bowl

Local heirloom tomatoes, quartered

Flaked tuna, left-over salmon, or rinsed anchovies

Tiny Nicoise olives

Fresh, local Genovese and Purple Basil leaves

(optional), sliced, boiled heritage-breed chicken eggs

Dressing is your choice. We like real extra-virgin, first cold-pressed olive oil and tarragon vinegar.

I hope you like our Salade Nicoise recipe. This summer dish is paired perfectly with Fairview’s Lunga Vista Vineyards’ 2013 Rose of Sangiovese. Though making delightful, local vins for several years, Lunga Vista’s bottles are not yet available at retail. If you’re lucky, your favorite chef will feature some for special occasions, as does Chef Salvatore Gisellu of Urban Crust, downtown Plano.







Ruby-throated hummingbird.jpg
Motley Haricot vert.jpg
Tuesday, July 8, 2014