Green Beans

Saturday, 6 December 2008 | Tags:

Fresh, frozen or canned, green beans are a popular side dish, salad ingredient, or healthy snack year round. Considered a vegetable by most, green beans are botanically classed as fruit for their seeds. We learn more about these delectable vegetables.

The Basics

  • Often called string beans, green beans used to have a fibrous string that ran along the seam of the pod, which was noticeable when you snapped off its ends. The “string” has been bred out of most varieties nowadays.

  • Fresh green beans are usually available all year, but are best in early winter, early summer, and early autumn.

  • Beans picked early in the growing season are smaller, but also sweeter and more velvety.

  • Pole beans are longer and flatter. Usually picked by hand, they’re more tender than machine-picked beans.

  • When buying beans, look for:

    • A firm texture and a fresh, vivid color with a velvety feel (which means they’re freshly picked).

    • Avoid beans that are limp, over-sized, split, or with rust spots or scars.

    • Don’t buy if the seeds are bulging inside the pod: this means they’re old.

    • Snap one in half: fresh beans should be crisp.

    • To cook evenly, choose pods around the same size that are no thicker than a pencil.

  • For the best flavour, use green beans within a day or two of purchasing. 

  • Store them fully intact in a sealed plastic bag or container in the refrigerator until ready for use, up to 5 days, and snap off the tough ends only when you are ready to cook them.

Other Considerations

  • Green beans have many health benefits. They:

    • contain vitamin A, B-complex vitamins, calcium and potassium.

    • are a diuretic.

    • may help treat diabetes.

Preparation Tips

  • If you want crisp, sweet tasting beans, cut them as little as possible.

  • Green beans continue to cook after you take them out of the boiling water, so take them out just before they are done, or put them briefly into ice water to stop the cooking process.

  • Beans cook faster, and taste better, when there are fewer in the pot. If you’re cooking more than a pound at once, use separate pans.

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