What Are Green Beans?
Green beans, string beans, snap beans…whatever the name, this fine vegetable is immensely popular, an evergreen favorite. “Green beans” is the general name, “string beans” was more common years ago when they were bred with a fibrous string that ran along the seam, and the name “snap beans” is used because that the noise they make when snapped. Let’s go with green beans for now, with an occasional string bean thrown in, shall we?
”Blue Lake” green beans are the most common type sold, and the ones we grew up on the ones we most commonly find at the grocery store. They can be categorized into two different groups: bush or pole beans. If the bean plant needs support to grow, they are classified as pole beans; if the beans can grow on their own without added support, they are classified as bush beans. This is perhaps more info than you need to cook them.
What Do Green Beans Look Like?
Mature string beans are usually 4-6” in length and either round or slightly flattened in shape, with some curve in the length. Young string beans, ones picked early, are usually around 3” long and not as thick in diameter. Most varieties are green, but there are also purple, red, yellow, and streaked varieties.
Where Can I Find Green Beans?
Green beans are readily available in supermarkets, as well as farmers markets (when in season).
How Do I Pick the Best Green Beans?
String beans should be firm, crisp, and bright green (or another color). Make sure they are free of wrinkles, brown spots and bruises.
What Do Green Beans Taste Like?
Raw string beans taste fresh and ….kind of green. Yes, green doesn’t exactly describe a flavor, but that’s how I think of it. Actually, string beans are don’t have tons of taste on their own, it’s sort of muted, and a little starchy, especially when raw.
But cook them and mix them with any of a hundred different ingredients, and they become a delicious and flavorful vegetable. Their texture alone, whether raw or cooked just right, is very pleasurable.
How to Cook String Beans: How to choose, store, prepare, cook string beans (or green beans or snap beans), plus recipes!Tweet This
How Do I Prepare Green Beans?
String beans are easy to prepare. The ends that have a stem are where they grew from the bush/pole. Remove those by either cutting the end or my preferred method, pinch right under the stem and peel downward. That way, if there is any fibrous string attached, it will come off with the motion. If fresh from a farmers market and there is dirt on them, give them a good rinse before using them in a recipe.
Once clean and trimmed, they are ready to be cut in any way desired (or not at all) and cooked with (or eaten)! Young string beans are best for using in salads and other raw preparations.
How Do I Cook Green Beans?
Part of the allure of string beans is that they are so versatile. They are perfect accompaniments but can also hold the spotlight. And they can be prepared with an Asian flair as easily as Italian or Southern U.S., or other seasonings.
String beans can be boiled, sautéed, stir-fried, fried, steamed, roasted, or even microwaved. My grandfather loved them loaded with butter and floppy and overcooked while my sister prefers them loaded with butter but tender yet crisp.
Slice them up raw or cooked and cooled and mix them into any kind of salad. Saute them simply with citrus and garlic for a delicious side dish, or spice it up with wonderful Asian flavors for a nice side for an Eatern-oriented meal. Or let the string beans shine as the star of a lovely sort of Mediterranean, sort of American summer dish!
How to Blanch Green Beans
Blanching green beans locks in their bright green color and gives them a crisp-tender texture. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set to the side. Have a colander (or strainer or slotted spoon) at the ready.
For mature green beans, you just need to snap off the ends and de-string them (see How to Prepare Green Beans, above) if they are more mature. Younger, thinner green beans don’t need any trimming.
Add the green beans to the pot of boiling water. If you are blanching a large amount of beans, do them in batches so that they don’t lower the temperature of the water too much. If you are doing the green beans in batches, you may want to use a slotted spoon (or a spider, which is a large, round long handled strainer or skimmer, often used in restaurants) if you have one. This will allow you to remove the vegetables to the ice bath, and then quickly return the water to a boil so you can cook the next batch.
Once the vegetables have been plunged into the water, let them cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then drain the green beans and plunge them into the water bath. Let them sit until they are completely cool. The timing will depend on the thickness and age of your green beans, and how tender you want them to be. You can remove one green bean and drop it into the ice bath, then bite it to test doneness. After blanching you can enjoy them as is as part of a crudite platter or a salad, use them in a cooked recipe, or freeze them.
How to Freeze Green Beans
Green beans are best frozen after a 30 to 60 second blanching (see above). Once the beans are cool, pat them very dry with a clean dishtowel. Place them in a freezer proof sealable bag. press out any excess air, and seal the bag. Label with the name and date, and freeze for up to 6 months.
When are Green Beans in Season?
String beans are available year-round but their growing season is usually May-October, when they are most tender. Look for them at farmers’ markets too.
How Do I Store Green Beans?
Unwashed green beans can be stored in the refrigerator in an air tight container or bag for up to 7 days. If you wash them, they will last for less time, as moisture will make them go bad faster.
Raw string beans also freeze nicely but do wash and trim them before freezing, even cutting them into smaller pieces if desired. If you really want to retain their texture and bright color for when you cook them, give them a quick blanch in boiling water, then plunge them into an ice bath to cool before freezing.
Are Green Beans Nutritious?
Green beans are wonderful for you with a very low calorie count and they are low in sodium. They supply Vitamin C which helps your bones, muscles, and skin stay healthy while also boosting your immune system. String beans also have iron, an essential mineral that supports your metabolism and Vitamin K.
9 Green Bean Recipes
Here are some recipes that use green beans: