Green Beans
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"Green Beans;" also known as "String Beans," "Snap Beans" or "Garden Beans", are scientifically named Phaseolus vulgaris. In the case of Green Beans, the science isn’t actually as precise as it may seem because Phaseolus vulgaris contains 50 different types of Beans in the one species.

All the Beans in "Phaseolus vulgaris," are Legumes and like all Legumes, they have seed pods with an obvious seam. Green Beans and many "Shell Beans," are from the same species of "Phaseolus vulgaris" and are also "closely related." The major difference is that all Green Beans have edible pods, because they are harvested while the seeds are still immature. This means that both the small seeds and the seed pods of Green Beans are eaten. Shell Beans, on the other hand, have inedible pods and are allowed to fully ripen before harvest. With Shell Beans, the ripe beans are removed from their pods before consumption and the pods are discarded.

Both Green Beans and Shell Beans are "New World Beans (they developed from plants native to America)." Some New World Shell Beans include Navy Beans, Pinto Beans, Cranberry Beans, Kidney Beans and Lima Beans. The New World beans evolved from wild plants into two quite different types of cultivars and a wide variety of beans. Various types of New World beans are also called "Common Beans."

Though we may call still call them “String Beans,” most modern Green Beans are “stringless,” meaning they don’t have tough fibrous strands. In the late 1800's, an American farmer/seed developer named "Calvin Keeney," developed the first “stringless” Green Bean. Keeney became known as “the father of the stringless bean,” and by 1911 had developed 19 varieties of Green Beans/Snap Beans. One type, took America by storm when released by the "W. Atlee Burpee Seed in 1894 -“Burpee Stringless Green Pod.”

Nowaday's, only certain heirloom varieties of Green Beans have real fibrous strings and are considered String Beans. Because of Keeney’s and many other horticulturalists’ work, there are over 130 types of Green Beans today. These newer Green Beans can still have thinner fibers which should be removed to avoid any chance of a "Tough Chew."

Despite their name, Green Beans aren’t always green, and they come in various widths and lengths. Some types are called "Wax Beans" and are typically Yellow, White, or Purple (*purple beans turn green when cooked).

The Italians developed their own type of Green Bean, Romano Beans (aka Flat Beans), which are flatter and wider than standard Green Beans and have a nice, meaty texture.

If the Green Beans are green colored and especially skinny, they are a special type called "Haricots Verts," which confusingly only means “Green Bean” in French, not “Skinny Green Bean.”  By the way, Haricots Verts are not the same as Green Beans.

Season

Green Beans are grown from Spring until late Fall and grown year-round, in warmer climates.

Availability

Green Beans are available year long.

Cultivation

Green Beans are quite easy to grow and are favorites with home gardeners. Considering their southern hemisphere origins, they do best if planted when the soil is completely warm. If planted when the soil is still chilly, the seeds will not germinate properly and may rot. Green Beans can be planted in both early Spring and early Fall. The Fall plantings don’t usually produce as many beans, but they're especially sweeter in taste.

Try to harvest Green Beans when they're about 5-8 inches long. Although, it depends on the type of Green Bean and when the seeds are "young," not “bulging,” from inside their pods. A good test of ripeness is to bend a bean. If the bean is ready, it will “snap” when broken. If you continue to pick Beans from a plant as soon as they ripen, the plant will keep producing more beans throughout the growing season.

Green Beans are harvested while the seeds are still immature and both the small seeds and their seed pods are eaten, but Green Beans are notoriously sneaky and are known for hiding from harvesting fingers. It’s not uncommon to think you’ve found every ripe bean on a plant, but when you look again there’s a huge cache hiding under an unexplored leaf.  Despite their efforts, many gardeners end up at the end of the season with a lot of giant-sized “hiders,” tough old beans that may seem unsalvageable. Never fear, they can still be eaten if cooked “low and slow,” in the style of the American South, over Low Heat. It’s a different experience from eating fresh young snap beans, but slow-cooked Green Beans are a marvelous comfort food.

Production

Today, Green Beans are grown all over the world.

Varieties

There are about 130 varieties of Green Beans. The original wild precursors of Green Beans were climbers, but with man’s help (particularly French and Italian growers), the climbers were also developed into shorter plants. The resulting "Pole Beans" and "Bush Beans," are the 2 main types of Green Bean plants.

Pole Beans are vine-y and rangy and need support while they grow. A full-grown Pole Bean plant turns into a great teepee for kids to play under in mid-summer. Bush Beans, grow on bushes (obviously), stay closer to the ground and need little or no support. Pole Beans tend to produce more beans, but Bush Bean plants mature faster.  In fact, Bush Beans are such quick growers (they produce flowers and beans almost simultaneously), that it’s sometimes possible to do two plantings (or a bumper crop) in one season.  Proponents of Pole Beans, however, claim they get nearly as many beans from one planting of Pole Beans, since Pole Beans continue to produce beans throughout the growing season. Pole Bean enthusiasts also insist that Pole Beans are sweeter and more tender than Bush Beans.

Some popular Pole Bean types are Blue Lake, Kentucky Blue, Kentucky Wonder, Purple King (shiny purple beans that turn green when cooked) and Rattlesnake (which are colored with green and purple streaks and can be eaten as snap beans or allowed to mature into Shell Beans). Kentucky Wonder Beans have a tendency to grow thick strings if they ripen too long. In Bush Beans, Blue Lake #47, Provider and Contender are well known contenders. Contender is especially noted for its high yield. Greencrop Bush Beans are a type with flat pods, similar to Romano Beans but thinner beans, and they have a nutty, fresh flavor.

Purchasing

When buying fresh Green Beans, look for those with a rich, vibrant color and a firm shape. Remember, as weird as it seems, that all Green Beans are not necessarily Green. Some are yellow or purple. Therefore the richness of the color is the indicator of quality not the shade of green. Limp and pale at the store will be bland at home on the plate.

Also, a fresh Green Bean will “snap” and break when bent and will have small seeds inside the pod. Older Green Beans will have larger, visible seeds. Except for the Blue Lake varieties (which hold onto their sweet flavor and tenderness even as they increase in size), but most large-sized Green Beans are past their prime. In general, (sorry Blue Lake variants), we avoid the older, larger Green Beans unless we're planning on slow-cooking Green Beans.

Storage

With many vegetables, the rule of thumb is “the fresher the better.” This is especially true with Green Beans. Fresh Green Beans begin to lose their sweetness almost as soon as they’re picked. Even refrigerating them can damage their taste. They’re southerners and would rather be warm. We suggest storing Green Beans at room temperature, in a cool/dark place. You won’t get the same numbers of days of shelf life (only about 2-4 days) as you would under refrigeration (3-5 days), but you should be happier with the results on the plate stored at room temperature. Best case, you should be "Organizing," Smart Kitchen’s 4 Levers of Cooking,™ to utilize your Green Beans on the day of purchase.

Culinary Uses

As you may have seen above, most modern green beans are “stringless,” which only means that they have thinner, less-fibrous strings than older heirloom varieties. In a perfect world even the thin strings should be removed before use.

Green Beans are not usually eaten Raw in any large quantity. Like all Beans, Green Beans contain small amounts of toxic substances called "Lectins" that are rendered harmless with cooking heat. The concentrations are so low in Green Beans that a raw bean or two is usually fine for the average person, but we strongly advise against anyone consistently eating large handfuls of raw Green Beans. Green Beans can be eaten hot or cold and cooked Al Dente (even with the Lectins in our experience) or tender. Nearly every culture has recipes for Green Beans, but the best way to cook them depends a lot on their size, age and toughness.

Small, young, tender Green Beans can be cooked whole. Larger, young, tender Green Beans should be cut into pieces of equal size for even cooking. In practice, this means "Bias Cutting" or "Frenching" with a Chef’s Knife or a Frenching Tool. Properly-sized, young tender Green Beans can be cooked by Sautéing, Pan Frying, Stir Frying, Blanching, Steaming, and Boiling. *When Blanching Green Beans, don’t use an Ice Bath to halt Carry Over Cooking. The immersion in cold water causes Green Beans to lose flavor.

Older, tougher Green Beans will require longer cooking time and are best cooked “Low and Slow” (Stewing, Braising, even in a Casserole). In the American South they cook Green Beans over Low Heat with Vinegar and Tomatoes (or other tenderizing acidic ingredient) until they are nearly falling apart. It’s a different experience from eating fresh young snap beans, but old, slow-cooked Green Beans are a marvelous comfort food. Undercooked Green Beans, will taste “grassy” or “earthy” and should go back onto the heat.

You can prepare Green Beans in a Tempura, in Curries, with Soy Sauce and even with Coconut Milk. Italian Romano Beans, are often slow-cooked similarly to the Southern American style but in Olive Oil with Tomatoes, Garlic and Onions. Green Beans (usually Haricots Verts) are a traditional ingredient in a French Niçoise Salad. Also, what would Thanksgiving be without that All-American concoction called "Green Bean Casserole?"

Portion Size

Allow 3-5 Green Beans per person.

Substitutes

Haricots Verts

Nutritional Value USDA
BEANS,FRENCH,MATURE SEEDS,RAW
Amount Per 100g
Calories 343
%Daily Value*
 
3%
Total Fat 2g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 18mg
28%
Potassium 1316mg
21%
Total Carbohydrate 64g
100%
Dietary Fiber 25g
Sugars 0g
Protein 18g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Nutrition

Green Beans are very nutritious and make a great diet food. This bean is low in calories and has a good amount of fiber. They're especially high in antioxidants and are a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and the various B-Vitamins. Also, they contain omega-3 fatty acids and a variety of minerals like Manganese, Copper, Phosphorus and Potassium.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes