Appalachian Food

Green Beans in Appalachia

bucket full of greenbeans

Green beans play a huge role in the food scene of Appalachia. For generations green beans have been a staple of the Appalachian diet. They’re enjoyed fresh from the garden, from home-canned jars, and reconstituted from a dried state.

Dried green beans are called leather britches, fodder beans, shuck beans, or dry hulls.

Here’s a video I did about green beans in Appalachia

I hope you enjoyed the video! Have you ever made or eaten leather britches?

If you’d like to see how Pap trellised his green beans go here.


This week we:

  • froze blueberries
  • dried zucchini (we sprinkled it with salt and garlic powder-and its good!)
  • canned tomatoes
  • made two runs of apple jelly
  • made a run of fermented chow chow
  • dried apples
  • froze green beans (we didn’t have enough for a canning)
  • strung peppers to dry
  • dried tomatoes

Tipper

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Quinn
    August 10, 2020 at 8:38 pm

    I enjoyed this video very much, thank you Tipper! Although I’ve never strung beans to dry, I may try it this year. A string would be just the thing, as I don’t have a good place to lay a screen for drying – as I learned last year when I had two big window screens covered in drying catnip and had to keep moving them inside and out depending on weather. Finally gave up and left them both resting across the edges of the bathtub! Yes, I think I’ll get a needle and thread and string some beans 🙂

  • Reply
    BARBARA GANTT
    August 10, 2020 at 7:39 pm

    My Aunt Helen made leather britches. She sewed them on the string, then hung them in her attic. She had been dead a few years and her son found some .
    Mt Daddy always grew what he called Dutch half runners. He would send me seed every year. Now I grow half runners but other beans too. I get my seed from Heirloom Beans in Berea Kentucky. They have one called Hill Family Beans that I really like. I just can my beans. Maybe some day, I will try leather britches.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 10, 2020 at 6:47 pm

    Tipper–Information for Ron Stephens. If he wants tall, strong-stalked corn he should plant Hickory King. It is what I always heard described as “field corn” or “dent corn”and was traditionally grown for fodder and feed for hogs and chickens although if you got it in the milk stage it made fine roasting ears. It consistently makes two ears to a stalk, is exceptionally sturdy, and will support pole beans or October beans without any problem. You can find seed through heirloom seed outlets.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 10, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    Tipper, I sure do wish Cracker Barrel would make you a paid consultant (if you wanted to). That’s because I wish for travelin folks they had things like shucky beans, cracklin bread, fried pies and other traditional Appalachian dishes. They would be a good business to have them, even if in limited areas and/or on holidays. But so far they have not contacted me for any ideas.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 10, 2020 at 9:31 am

    As you know I have an ongoing experiment with blanched and rinsed leatherbritches. I never really liked leatherbritches before but could eat them. Also didn’t like green beans either until I discovered that if I blanched, rinsed, cooled and drained them before cooking they were really good. Recently it dawned on me that whatever came off with the rinse water in the case of the fresh cooked beans would still be on the leatherbritches. So, I weighed out and thoroughly washed a pound of beans and processed them as though I was going to eat them the same day but after the blanching and rinse, I put them in the dehydrator. About 4 hours later I had leatherbritches (It would have taken less time but some of the bigger older beans took longer. Something else I learned). I was sorely tempted to go ahead and cook them but that would or could have an effect on the final product. So, I put them up in a clear canister (a recycled plastic peanut butter container) and will wait a few months before I cook them. I realize that the dehydrator and the peanut butter jar diverge from the manner our ancestors used but to remain perfectly true to history I would have had to first clear some trees and build a log cabin. I’m getting too old for that.

    P.S. I weighed the leatherbritches after they dried. The result was 1.3 ounces. They lost 14.7 ounces. Almost 90% of their weight.

    • Reply
      Tipper
      August 10, 2020 at 10:29 am

      Ed-please let us know how they turn out.

  • Reply
    Dee
    August 10, 2020 at 9:22 am

    Tipper, you do a beautiful job of explaining the way to put up green beans. My people had migrated on down to NC by the late 1700’s and years later moved on into AL, TN, and MS. I think they all loved green beans and knew how to grow them, dry them and later can them. My son has tried to grow them running up the corn stalk, not sure how that will turn out. I do think those cattle panels are the best way to grow them. They are one of my favorite meals and I really, really love them the way my Mother prepared them, learned from her Mother. She always cooked them for a long time with fatback or whatever you call the meat. I know people that say they like their green beans crunchy, LOL, but those beans are not cooked done for me:) Thanks for your presentation on green beans, it brought back a lot of good memories.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    August 10, 2020 at 9:14 am

    I never cared for the taste of shuck beans when I was growing up and found no need to dry them when I started raising a garden of my own. Your post gave me a hankering for a mess.
    I shopped at a large greenhouse/nursery where my cousin worked a few years ago and was introduced to the owner. The owner whispered that he needed confirmation that my cousin actually grew up eating something called leather britches. I told him I did too, except we called them shuck beans in my family. That man had never as much as heard of shuck beans or leather britches and felt sorry for us for having to eat them. He’s the one I felt sorry for!

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    August 10, 2020 at 9:05 am

    Tipper, you’re an excellent, engaging speaker and I enjoy hearing anything you share because I learn a lot. My mommy and Bobby grew white half runners and planted them with the corn so they came up together! I remember playing and picking for hundreds of hours in the corn and beans which never seemed to end…. We never had leather britches per say but my Cherokee great grandmother dried them that way. Since mommy was a vegetarian, she used butter in beans a lot. I must confess my green beans I buy fresh ALWAYS end up stringy and nasty. I try to string them but I’m doing something wrong. Where am I going wrong y’all??? Help me and SOS. Oh I’m getting Foxfire books even though there’re 250$… need them to read this winter if I’m alive then…

    • Reply
      Tipper
      August 10, 2020 at 3:43 pm

      Margie-those strings can be hard to get off! I pull each side and then once I break the bean into pieces I look for strings sticking off the ends and if I find any I pull them.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    August 10, 2020 at 9:02 am

    Tipper,
    I enjoyed your video of stringing and preserving Leather Britches, especially the Younce Beans. We did them the same way as you did. Our Porch was kindly in the Shade and it made a Great place to hang them to dry for Winter.

    My Daddy and Alex Nelson built our House and I can’t think of a thing different. It was Double-Boxed with Chestnut and Snow would seep in after we went to bed. But Mama put quilts so heavy that when you went to bed, you laid there.

    We were True Hillbillies, and I wouldn’t change Nothing. Mama and Daddy, I think, were the Smartest People in the World and I say that because They Were My Parents. …Ken

  • Reply
    Leon Pantenburg
    August 10, 2020 at 8:56 am

    Love your videos!

  • Reply
    Rebecca Wines
    August 10, 2020 at 8:51 am

    My Mother strung white half-runners on heavy sewing thread and hung them on our screened-in porch to dry and become leather britches. I totally loved the flavor.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 10, 2020 at 8:45 am

    It has been a very long time but I have had leather britches. I think my Grandma was the last in the family to dry green beans. As best I recall, she strung them through the middle of the pod instead of the end. I like them fine if the have been strung but it is not something I would take a hankering for. They are better if they end up lightly smoked like they get in the kitchen that has a wood-burning range. I really like the idea of a Thanksgiving or Christmas tradition of having leather britches.

    I do so wish (as I think I have posted before) I could find an old fashioned cornfield bean. It seems people don’t even know what you mean when you say that anymore. It needs to be a small pod bean with short (less than 6 feet) runners and able to grow in the part shade of corn. In my small garden I really need to double and triple crop all I can.

    I visited the Choctaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, OK once where they had a garden with their traditional planting. Corn, beans and pumpkin were all three planted in hills about 4 to 6 feet in diameter and separated from each other by about 6 feet edge to edge. The corn was very tall, about 12 feet, and looked to be very sturdy. I have wished several times I had checked to see if they sold the bean seed but I didn’t. But I have also read that modern hybrid corn is not sturdy enough to let beans grow on it. I tried it once and sure enough the vines broke the corn down.

    About drying, it is just a very variable situation. Seems to me the real bottom line is to get dry enough so whatever is being dried won’t support mold. That would be a reason to store in the freezer just in case they weren’t quite dry enough.

  • Reply
    gayle larson
    August 10, 2020 at 8:32 am

    Boy….It makes me tired just thinking about all you accomplished . The hard work now will be appreciated this winter when you are enjoying the fruits of your labor.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 10, 2020 at 8:30 am

    Good job, Tip, you’ve given such a wonderful voice for Appalachia! I’ve eaten leather britches and I’ve made leather britches. They are very good and in their time provided a great way to preserve the beans without canning or freezing.
    No electricity required!
    I’m really liking these video’s you are making, they are just so real!
    Thank you for all you do to preserve Appalachian tradition!

  • Reply
    aw griff
    August 10, 2020 at 8:26 am

    We always called them leather britches but have heard them called shuckee beans. I haven’t eaten any for many years but did like them but not as well as canned beans. Fortunately they taste better than they look.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 10, 2020 at 7:40 am

    Tipper–Nice presentation, and I particularly liked the idea of folks having a mess of leather britches at Thanksgiving and Christmas as a way to remember family traditions. Momma and then my wife always made chestnut dressing at those times with the same thought in mind.

    You mentioned the different texture of cooked leather britches. They also have a distinctive taste and one some don’t like.

    We dried them by stringing (strong monofilament fishing line works as well, indeed better, than thread) but Grandma dried hers on cheese cloth spread atop the tin roof of the cannery. The only trouble with her approach was you had to be keenly aware of any coming rain, but then she was a homebody so that wasn’t really a problem.

    Jim Casada

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