Books for cooks ‘The Southern Vegetable Book’

“The Southern Vegetable Book: A Root-To-Stalk Guide To The South’s Favorite Produce.”

“Eat what’s in season; put up for when it’s not; cook what grows nearby,” Rebecca Lang advises in the intro to her book before she dives into the 12 months of vegetables we Southerners are so fortunate to have. Dividing them by the four seasons, she offers 100-plus ways to bring them to the table: some old favorites, some new and all peppered with valuable information.

The headnote for the following recipe illustrates Lang’s lovely style: “Speckled butter beans with varying hues of purple and maroon are never to be overlooked. Thanks to their mottled color and mild chestnut flavor, they are sometimes called Christmas Beans. They have been a Southern standard by which many butter beans are judged. The spots and waves of color vanish with heat, and a dark, rich brown butter bean emerges.”

Many Southerners grew up only eating small greenish-white butter beans, missing out on the nutty nuance of their speckled cousins. At his Cameron, South Carolina, farm, the Old Tyme Bean Company, Josh Johnson has launched the reintroduction of the Jackson Wonder, an heirloom speckled butter bean that he characterizes as “meaty.” Look for them this summer from late June through August. They’ll be perfect dished up with bacon and basil.

Published by Oxmoor House, “The Southern Vegetable Cookbook” is $27.95.

Reach Marion Sullivan at

Makes 6 servings


11/4 pounds fresh speckled butter beans

1 teaspoon table salt, divided

8 thick bacon slices, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon sorghum syrup

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil


1. Cover beans with water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes or until tender. Drain.

2. Fry bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside, reserving drippings in pan. Add onion and garlic to drippings; cook for 5 minutes or until translucent. Remove from heat, and stir in sorghum, lemon juice, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring to loosen browned bits from bottom of pan.

3. Combine butter beans and onion mixture in a large serving bowl. Toss. Top with bacon and basil.