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Recipes for Busy Moms Recipes for Busy Moms

Ingredient of the Week, August 18: Green Beans

Posted by on Aug. 18, 2013 at 9:45 AM
  • 7 Replies

                  

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. This term can also refer to specific varieties of green beans that are popular in French cuisine because of their very thin shape and very tender texture

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. At full maturity, their pods are often too thick and fibrous to be readily enjoyed in fresh form, but the beans inside their pods are perfect for drying and storing.

Nutrition

Green beans are surprisingly nutritious. A single serving of green beans has a quarter of the day's requirements of vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin that's important for healthy bones and blood clotting. They're also a good source of vitamins A and C, antioxidant vitamins that protect cells against oxidative damage. Vitamins A and C both keep the immune system healthy, while vitamin A preserves night vision and keeps skin and the cornea of the eye moist.

                   

How to Select and Store

If possible, purchase green beans at a store or farmer's market that sells them loose so that you can sort through them to choose the beans of best quality. Purchase beans that have a smooth feel and a vibrant green color, and that are free from brown spots or bruises. They should have a firm texture and "snap" when broken.

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. There are several research studies on the nutritional consequences of freezing green beans, and most studies show the ability of green beans to retain valuable amounts of nutrients for 3-6 months after freezing. If you don't have fresh green beans available on a year-round basis, purchasing frozen green beans can definitely provide you with a nutritionally valuable option.

If you wish to freeze green beans we recommend that you steam the green beans for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let them cool thoroughly before placing them in freezer bags and storing them in your freezer.

It is good to remember that the passage of time appears to lessen the concentration of multiple nutrients. There appears to be less nutrient loss at 3 months than at 6 months, and you may want to limit your freezer storage of green beans (whether frozen at home or pre-purchased in frozen form) to about 3 months for this reason.

Tips for Preparing Green Beans

Just prior to using the green beans, wash them under running water. Remove both ends of the beans by either snapping them off or cutting them with a knife.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

  • Green beans are a classic ingredient in Salad Nicoise, a French cold salad dish that combines steamed green beans with tuna fish and potatoes.
  • Healthy sauté green beans with shiitake mushrooms.
  • Prepare the perennial favorite, green beans almondine, by sprinkling slivered almonds on healthy sautéed beans.

                          

Do you usually use fresh green beans, frozen or canned? How do you like green beans cooked? Sauteed, steamed, roasted, in a salad or casserole?

by on Aug. 18, 2013 at 9:45 AM
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Replies (1-7):
KamsOne
by Jen on Aug. 18, 2013 at 10:53 PM

I love green beans!!  I usually buy them fresh but I'll buy frozen occasionally.

I like to cook them in balsamic vingegar and butter.  

Or olive oil and garlic.  Yum.

periwinkle163
by Mandy on Aug. 19, 2013 at 4:03 PM
1 mom liked this

 I love snapping green beans.

AmosFarkle
by Bronze Member on Aug. 20, 2013 at 5:30 AM

Around here they sell "pole beans" and yes, they still have strings. (Which make me gag.)  So I have to use a paring knife at both ends, down both sides, to get that nasty string out.

I miss the days I grew stringless bush beans.  But they were hard to pick...owwww, my back!  I paid the older kids a buck or two to pick them for me.  Cheaper than a chiropractor!  LOL  And the absolute best way to cook them was on a grate over a campfire, simmering all day.  My parents had a camper that we'd set up for them so we could borrow it for a weekend or two. I usually had a pot of beans ready for them when we were leaving and they were coming in.  My mom was ecstatic.

SweetLuci
by Luci on Aug. 20, 2013 at 7:52 AM

 Never tried Balsamic vinegr and butter, that sounds really good.

Quoting KamsOne:

I love green beans!!  I usually buy them fresh but I'll buy frozen occasionally.

I like to cook them in balsamic vingegar and butter.  

Or olive oil and garlic.  Yum.

 

SweetLuci
by Luci on Aug. 20, 2013 at 7:53 AM

 I love pole beans, even though te string is a beast to remove, well worth it for the flavor!

Quoting AmosFarkle:

Around here they sell "pole beans" and yes, they still have strings. (Which make me gag.)  So I have to use a paring knife at both ends, down both sides, to get that nasty string out.

I miss the days I grew stringless bush beans.  But they were hard to pick...owwww, my back!  I paid the older kids a buck or two to pick them for me.  Cheaper than a chiropractor!  LOL  And the absolute best way to cook them was on a grate over a campfire, simmering all day.  My parents had a camper that we'd set up for them so we could borrow it for a weekend or two. I usually had a pot of beans ready for them when we were leaving and they were coming in.  My mom was ecstatic.

 

jjamom
by Silver Member on Aug. 20, 2013 at 10:07 AM
I love fresh green beans. I like my green beans to still have a little crunch to them.

I like green beans almandine and a green bean, tomato dish where you blanch the green beans, then put them in a skillet with grape tomatoes and Italian salad dressing and cook tossing them until the tomatoes start to pop and the green beans are warmed through.

I also still like the way my parents always made them, boiled in water with bacon, salt and pepper. They aren't crispy with this method, though.
SweetLuci
by Luci on Aug. 20, 2013 at 10:13 PM

 

Quoting jjamom:

I love fresh green beans. I like my green beans to still have a little crunch to them.

I like green beans almandine and a green bean, tomato dish where you blanch the green beans, then put them in a skillet with grape tomatoes and Italian salad dressing and cook tossing them until the tomatoes start to pop and the green beans are warmed through.

I also still like the way my parents always made them, boiled in water with bacon, salt and pepper. They aren't crispy with this method, though.

 

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