Commonly referred to as string beans, the string that once was their trademark (running lengthwise down the seam of the pod) can seldom be found in modern varieties. It's for this reason (the breeding out of the "string") that string beans are often referred to as "snap beans." Because they are picked at a younger, immature stage, "snap beans" can literally be snapped in half with a simple twist of the fingers. Although these bright green and crunchy beans are available at your local market throughout the year, they are in season from summer through early fall when they are at their best and the least expensive. You may also see them referred to as "haricot vert"—this term simply means "green bean" in French and is the common French term for this vegetable.
Green beans belong to the same family as shell beans, such as pinto beans, black beans, and kidney beans. In fact, all of these beans have the exact same genus/species name in science—Phaseolus vulgaris—and all can be referred to simply as "common beans." However, since green beans are usually picked while still immature and while the inner beans are just beginning to form in the pod, they are typically eaten in fresh (versus dried) form, pod and all. Green beans are often deep emerald green in color and come to a slight point at either end. Green bean varieties of this common bean family are usually selected for their great texture and flavor while still young and fresh on the vine. In contrast, dried bean varieties like pinto or black or kidney beans are usually selected for their ability to produce larger and more dense beans during the full time period when they mature on the vine.
Green beans and other beans, such are kidney beans, navy beans and black beans are all known scientifically as Phaseolus vulgaris. They are all referred to as "common beans," probably owing to the fact that they all derived from a common bean ancestor that originated in Peru. From there, they spread throughout South and Central America by migrating Indian tribes. They were introduced into Europe around the 16th century by Spanish explorers returning from their voyages to the New World, and subsequently were spread through many other parts of the world by Spanish and Portuguese traders.
Store unwashed fresh beans pods in a plastic bag kept in the refrigerator crisper. Whole beans stored this way should keep for about seven days.
Many people wonder about the possibility of freezing green beans, or purchasing green beans that have already been frozen. Both options can work—green beans are definitely a vegetable that can be frozen.
Green Beans with Tomatos, Olives and Eggs
- 1 pound green beans, trimmed
- 1/2 cup grape/cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- Lemon wedges
Good with grilled salmon or poached chicken breasts.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook beans until crisp-tender, 3 minutes. Drain; rinse under cold water. Halve beans and place in a bowl; add tomatoes, olives, oil, and eggs. Season with salt and pepper; serve with lemon wedges.
Green Bean Casserole
Try this fresh and homemade version of an old Thanksgiving classic.
- 3 cups vegetable oil
- 6 large shallots, cut into very thin rounds, rings separated
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 2 pounds green beans, trimmed and halved
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 pound button mushrooms, trimmed and coarsely chopped
- 14.5 ounces low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup whole milk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. In a large bowl, toss together shallots and 1 1/4 cups flour until shallots are evenly coated. In batches, shake off excess flour from shallots and fry until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes, adjusting heat if shallots are browning too quickly. With a slotted spoon, transfer to sheet and season with salt. Set aside. (Store in an airtight container at room temperature with a layer of paper towels underneath, up to 2 days.)
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook green beans until crisp-tender, 6 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Pat dry. (To store, refrigerate in a resealable plastic bag, up to 1 day.)
In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-high. Add mushrooms and cook until liquid has evaporated, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup flour and cook, stirring, until incorporated, about 1 minute. Whisking constantly, gradually add broth, then milk. Bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (To store, refrigerate with plastic wrap on surface, up to 2 days. Reheat before using.)
Add green beans to mushroom sauce and toss to coat. Transfer mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bake until bubbling around edges, about 15 minutes. Serve topped with fried shallots.
Pickled Green Beans
Makes 2 pint jars
- 3/4 pound trimmed green beans
- 4 thinly sliced cloves garlic
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons coarse salt
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons sugar
*For spicy pickled beans, add to red chiles to jar
Pickles can be refrigerated, up to 1 month.
Arrange green beans and garlic in clean glass jars. In a saucepan, bring vinegar, salt, peppercorns, sugar (and chiles) to a boil. Carefully pour mixture into jars, secure lids, and let cool to room temperature.
Green Bean Salad with Almonds (Asian Style)
"Shocking" the cooked green beans in ice water prevents them from overcooking, preserving their bright-green color. The tamari almonds are delicious -- you may want to make extra for snacking.
- 1/2 cup whole roasted almonds
- 2 tablespoons tamari
- 1 1/2 pounds green beans trimmed
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped roughly (optional)
- STEP 1
Place almonds in a small nonstick saute pan. Lightly toast over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon tamari and stir until the almonds are coated evenly, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate and cool. Chop almonds roughly.
- STEP 2
Prepare a large bowl of ice water. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook beans until crisp-tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- STEP 3
Drain the beans and transfer to the bowl of ice water. Remove green beans and drain well.
- STEP 4
In a large bowl, combine the sesame oil, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and remaining 1 tablespoon of tamari. Add the drained green beans and toss to coat. Garnish with roasted almonds and fresh cilantro if desired. Serve immediately, while warm.