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"I have green beans coming out of my ears!" This is the time of year when the garden is lush that I hear that phrase often. It makes me reminisce back to my childhood days of snapping hundreds of green beans until my tiny fingers hurt. Green beans are actually immature dry beans that taste the sweetest when they're young. Green beans are sometimes still referred to as string beans because of the fiber that developed along the string of the pod. However, plant breeders have cultivated new crop without the "string" and are otherwise known as the "snap" bean, which are a bush bean that can stand erect without support, unlike pole beans.

Fresh pole and bush beans can be stored unwashed in plastic bags in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator for up to three days. Don't wash them before storing; wet beans will develop black spots and decay quickly. Wash beans just before preparation, and trim off ends. Green beans will retain color and nutritional value best if cooked quickly. Microwaving is a quick easy process. Simply add a couple tablespoons of water, cover and cook three to four minutes. You can also steam in a metal colander inside a saucepan. Pour in two inches of water, cover and boil for five minutes.

Green beans can be thrown in soups, stir-fries, or casseroles. Try seasoning them with a bit of margarine and fresh basil or dill. Toss in slivered almonds or chopped peanuts for an added crunch. Green beans can be easily frozen by blanching in boiling water for four minutes. Then, immerse in an ice-water bath until cool, drain and place in freezer bags or containers. Green beans may also be canned, but only in a pressure canner. Visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation to learn more on how to preserve your green beans.

Holiday Green Beans (Printable PDF)

1 ½ pound fresh green beans, trimmed

? cup diced red or orange bell pepper

1 Tablespoon canola oil

1 Tablespoon water

1 ½ teaspoons white wine vinegar or cider vinegar

1 ½ teaspoons spicy brown mustard

? teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Place beans and red pepper in a microwave-safe bowl and add 2 Tablespoons of water. Cover and microwave on high for 3-4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Transfer beans to a serving bowl; add vinaigrette mixture and toss to coat.

Yield: 9 servings


Nutritional analysis per ½ cup serving: 45 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 10 milligrams sodium, 6 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 2 grams protein