Green beans are in the same family as familiar shelling beans such as kidney beans, navy beans, and black beans; all are referred to as “common beans.” However, green beans, also known as string beans and snap beans, are harvested while immature when the beans are just forming inside the elongated pod.
Green beans are high in antioxidants and are a good source of absorbable silicon, a mineral important for bone health and the formation of healthy connective tissue.
Green beans are great stir-fried, steamed, sautéed, or boiled. Whichever method you prefer, they are best if cooked to a tender-crisp.
You can also eat them raw in salads or with a vegetable platter and hummus.
Cooked beans pair well with butter, lemon butter, sautéed onions or mushrooms, toasted almonds, pine nuts, herbs, wine based sauces, Parmesan cheese, ham, or cooked bacon. Steamed beans taste great with a gingery sauce.
Most green bean varieties no longer have a string down the length of the pod, but if you encounter a string, simply pull down the length of the pod and discard.
If you want to cook a large amount of green beans more quickly, cut each bean in half lengthwise. This is also a good method for rehabbing the green beans that are no longer looking their best. For the crisper, freshest tasting beans, leave them whole after removing the tip ends.
Squeaky beans can be avoided by cooking the beans until they are softer, but this will be up to your personal preference. The longer they cook, the less squeak you’ll encounter. If you boil your beans, use as little water as possible, and afterwards, use the bean water to cook rice.
Store unwashed green beans in the refrigerator, covered loosely with a plastic bag, for four to five days.
If you want to freeze the beans for later use, blanch them for three minutes in boiling water and then immediately remove and cool in an ice bath.
When you are ready to cook, rinse the beans in cool or lukewarm water. Snap or cut off the tips, and then cut the beans to the desired length for your recipe.
When doling out servings of beans per plate, a handful per person is a good measurement to use when deciding how many to cook.
Leave the lid off of the cooking pan initially, then cover and continue to cook until ready. This will help preserve the beans’ green color.
To get through a large amount of green beans at one time, line them up in a row, using your hand or a knife to guide them, then using a chef’s knife or paring knife, remove the top tip in one quick chop, then repeat on the other side, if desired. (The stem end is the main side that needs to be removed.)