Lent and the gift of green beans

Eating simple meals using ingredients from the freezer instead of buying produce during the winter is one way to observe Lent. — Heather Wolfe

The season of Lent has arrived. This period of time as we head towards the cross of Good Friday and resurrection of Easter Sunday reminds us of Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness as he prepared for public ministry.

Growing up in the Mennonite faith tradition, it was not part of our church culture to give up anything for Lent. It wasn’t until I participated in non-denominational Christian high school youth groups and college campus ministries that I witnessed the practice of fasting and ‘giving up’ something, often food related, such as caffeine or chocolate. 

Fast forward to 2010, year two of living on our homestead. It is the height of summer harvest and the bountiful green beans are being blanched to put away in the freezer for winter months ahead. As I open the freezer to put in gallons of this year’s green beans, I am met by gallons of last year’s green beans. I had intended to eat them.

Instead I had forgotten them. Instead I had spent the winter buying fresh produce at the store to make whatever recipes struck my fancy. Winter down-time from homesteading is when I naturally tend to be creative in the kitchen and spend more time experimenting with new recipes.

Staring at those year-old green beans, I felt repentant. The earth and the Creator had gifted me with sustenance, and I had not fully acknowledged, accepted or appreciated the gift. Receiving the second gift of green beans awoke me to that reality. 

Repentance to me means feeling sincerely sorry, making a promise to change and to not repeat those actions. I felt deeply sorry for being inattentive to what had been provided, for letting desire rule over me by buying fresh broccoli and snap peas and peppers out of season flown in from far-away places, instead of giving thanks for nourishing green beans grown here at home. I promised I would never get to green bean season again and still have green beans in my freezer. 

How I’ve kept that promise for 14 years now is by planning simpler meals during the season of Lent, eating largely from the freezer and pantry. I annually give up my ability and privilege to go buy whatever I’d like from the grocery store and work creatively to use what I have. We do continue to buy staples as they run out, but we cut back to only basics. For example, rather than having four different types of rice — jasmine, basmati, long-grain brown and white sushi — we will use what we have and then pare down to having just a single brown rice.

Simplifying my meal plan during Lent could be viewed as an act of sacrifice and fasting that helps me to realign my eating with my values around faithful living, including remembering food as a life sustaining gift and making environmentally conscious food choices.

Restraint has turned out to be richly rewarding. There is great satisfaction and creativity that comes from creating within limits. Meals I didn’t know were possible appear on the table.

We find ourselves sharing deeper gratitude during each grace for the provision and gift of food: the canned tomatoes that taste of summer sun during the dark days of winter; the currant jam that gives us a daily immune boosting dose of Vitamin C when viruses are spreading through schools. The warmth of enchiladas made from frozen corn, dried black beans, garlic, onions and canned tomatoes remind us how working like squirrels in the fall to gather in the harvest has allowed us to feed ourselves when we cannot see the frozen garden ground buried under feet of snow. 

The shelves and freezer get quite bare by Easter. There will be no green beans left in our house to serve on Resurrection Sunday. Praise be to God for providing!

Thai green beans can be served with cooked rice and garnished with almonds and sesame seeds. — Heather Wolfe

Thai Green Beans

My favorite meal made of green beans is inspired by Kendra Loewen’s recipe published in Herald Press’s Simply In Season that was co-authored by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert. Below is my adaptation of her original recipe that helps me use lots of frozen green beans throughout Lent.


  • 6 cups of cut green beans, frozen or fresh
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 (14 oz.) package extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • cooked brown rice for serving
  • toasted sesame seeds and/or slivered almonds for garnish


  1. Steam green beans until still crisp yet tender, seven to ten minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. While the beans are cooking, heat oil in a wok or skillet (a cast iron skillet is my go-to pan) over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for five minutes, until tender.
  3. Crumble the tofu block with your hands and add it to the pan along with the soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, ginger and garlic. Cook for about five minutes, stirring often. 
  4. Stir in the steamed green beans and cook another few minutes until everything is heated through and evenly coated with sauce. 

Serve over rice with garnishes of your choice. Enjoy!

Heather Wolfe

Heather Wolfe is deeply rooted in Vermont, USA, is in the Mennonite faith tradition and is part of a family Read More

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