LE ROY PENNYSAVER & NEWS - NOVEMBER 27, 2022 by Lynne Belluscio As my family gets ready for Thanksgiving dinner, the family recipes are shared – the turkey stuffing recipe, the sourcream dill dip, the fresh cranberry orange relish, Hollandaise sauce, chocolate pecan pie, pumpkin pie, lime Jell-O apple and walnut salad and green bean casserole. I had a Facebook note pop up about green bean casserole, and I thought, sure - - its famous, but it wouldn’t be possible without Calvin Keeney of LeRoy and his green beans! So, let’s first start with the origin of the casserole. It seems that it was created by Dorcas Reilly at the Campbell Soup Company in 1955. She was working in the test kitchen in Campbell’s headquarters in Camden, New Jersey, and created what was first called “GreenBeanBake.” Reilly also created Campbell’s Tomato Soup Meatloaf, a tuna noodle casserole, Porcupine Meatballs, and Sloppy Joe Soupburger. Reilly’s recipe card for Green Bean Bake is in the archives of the Inventor’s Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio – along with Thomas Edison’s light bulb. Green Bean Bake was created as a side dish and not considered a holiday recipe until the company put the recipe on the side of a can of cream of mushroom soup. According to the Campbell’s website, it is served at 20 million thanksgiving dinners each year. The recipe is viewed 4 million times each Thanksgiving Day and 7.5% of the cream of mushroom soup sales occur November through January. For many years, when advertising photos were taken of the casserole, Campbell’s insisted that the French Fried Onions could only be around the outside of the dish, and not in the center. Now they say to put the onions anywhere you want them. There are only six ingredients – cream of mushroom soup, soy sauce, black pepper, milk, French Fried Onions and green beans. So, now it’s on to Calvin Keeney and his beans. Until Calvin Keeney developed the “stringless” bean, all beans had strings and were string beans. The strings either had to be cut or had to be pulled from the bean. This could be done by hand, or you could buy a little “bean stringer.” Calvin noticed that some beans didn’t have as many strings, so he would go from plant to plant and save those beans for seeds. Then he would plant the seeds and harvest those bean seeds and do the same thing. But he wanted to make sure that plants that had strings wouldn’t be planted in the same area as beans that didn’t have as many strings. So, he made little gardens in the middle of corn fields and planted his beans. This took quite a bit of time, but eventually he developed seventeen different varieties of stringless beans. He employed a number of people to work in his mill on Lake Street, sorting bean seeds. Many Italian women took bags of beans home and with the help of their children, sorted beans to make extra money. A bean sorting machine is on exhibit in the basement of the Academic Building behind LeRoy House. Calvin Keeney’s story was chronicled by Dr. Robert Becker of Cornell, who used Keeney’s copious notes that are in the Cornell archives. An interesting note, Calvin stored his stringless bean seeds in the Keeney – ASGROW Mill on Lake Street, which burned to the ground. Calvin’s work was destroyed, and he had to recover seeds that he had saved in other facilities. Another interestingnote is that the beans suffered from a blight that was in the ground. And so, all the bean growers gradually moved their bean growing facilities west. One of those places is in Bozeman, Montana, (where my grandson lives). The mill building has been developed into a community facility and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Keeney’s first stringless bean was Yellow Pencil Pod – a long narrow yellow bean with black seeds. Calvin developed Keeney’s Stringless Refugee, a green podded bean, as well as fifteen other beans. In 1927, the Associated Seed Growers, Inc (ASGROW) was formed when seed competitors Everett B. Clark Seed Company, John H Allen Seed Company and N.B. Keeney & Son joined together. The headquarters were in New Haven Connecticut. The Upjohn Company acquired ASGROW in 1968 in a stock swap and in 1994, Mexicobased company, Empresas Las Moderna SA purchased ASGROW for $300 million. Monstanto purchased ASGROW from Empresas in 1996 for $240 million and a year later the company moved its headquarters to Des Moines, Iowa. ASGROW became a brand of Bayer Crop Science in 2018. A little more about the Keeney family. The Keeney family had a homestead on the south side of Route 5 on the west side of town - -opposite Keeney Road. A few years ago, we removed the historic sign to have it painted, but when we came to put it back up, the State Department of Transportation would not allow the sign to go back up because it was in the right-ofway for State Highway Route 5. So the sign has been in storage at the Town Highway Department with the hope that someday it can be put back up. It is also through the generosity of the Keeney family, that an endowment was established with the Buffalo Foundation for the Historical Society, to hire a curator to take care of the collections. Each year, in the fall of the year, a sizable check is received and is put to good use. So enjoy that green bean casserole. Tip a glass in memory of Dorcas Reilly. And remember Calvin Keeney - no strings attached. Green Bean Casserole GREEN BEAN BAKE RECIPE • 1 can (10 1/2 ounces) Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup or 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup or Condensed Unsalted Cream of Mushroom Soup • 1/2 cup milk • 1 teaspoon soy sauce • Two cans of green beans • 1 1/3 cups French's® French Fried Onions (amount divided in recipe steps below) • Step 1, Heat the oven to 350°F. Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, beans and 2/3 cup onions in a 1 1/2-quart casserole. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. • Step 2, Bake for 25 minutes or until hot. Stir the bean mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining 2/3 cup onions. • Step 3, Bake for another 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.