Green beans, also called string beans and snap beans, have a long, storied history that dates back about 8,000 years. Considered a reliable source of nutrition, Native American tribes always planted string beans with squash and corn, a combination known as the “three sisters”.
If your only encounter with green beans featured them swimming in cream of mushroom soup and crushed dried onions at Thanksgiving, give these fresh-tasting delights another chance with less complication. Toss steamed string beans with roasted garlic and pine nuts, serve them with a tuna filet and potatoes for the classic Salad Nicoise, or create a more updated bean casserole dish by adding artichokes and sourdough croutons.
Traditional string beans have thin green pods about three to six inches long. The diameter of these beans is barely thicker than a pencil. Keep in mind that string beans come in a variety of colors, including green, purple, red, gold, and variegated. But inside the pod, all the tiny beans are green—ask a grocer to snap a bean for you if you want to check.
Canned and frozen string beans are also available, usually labeled with their other common names of green or snap beans.
String beans are at their best flavor when young, with a light, slightly nutty taste that complements a variety of dishes or works well as a featured side dish.
Fresh string beans are readily available in most grocery stores and at farmers’ markets during peak season. Frozen green beans are also available all year.
String beans are grown throughout the US, especially Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California, which means they’re in season practically all year long. In Europe, beans are freshest between May and October.
Choose fresh string beans that are firm and bright in color, which may be green, red, purple, or gold. Each bean inside the pod, which will be green, should be tight against the pod casing but give slightly to your touch. Some people believe the tastiest green beans are thinner than a pencil. The bean should “snap” when broken, hence the other name of reference—snap bean. Avoid string beans that are limp or bruised.
Some studies indicate that organic fruits and vegetables have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than conventionally raised produce.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health advocacy and research organization in the United States. From cosmetics to produce, water to cleaning products, EWG provides insight regarding the impact of pesticides, manufacturing practices, and product ingredients on our health and environment. EWG produces a consumer guide ranking 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue. The higher the rank, the lower the residue. Green beans rank at #20 on the full EWG list, which places them in the middle of the “Clean Fifteen” and “Dirty Dozen” lists. So if so pesticides are a concern for you, consider buying organic string beans.
The Environmental Working Group and Yoffie Life stress that consuming conventionally grown vegetables and fruits when the organic version is unavailable or financially impossible is far better than eating none at all.
Keep unwashed string beans in a plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper and use within one week.
Fresh, raw string beans are a delicious treat—simply wash in cold water, snap, and eat! Since string beans are classified as edible pod beans, you can eat both the pod and the beans inside, raw or cooked. If you happen to have an heirloom variety of string bean that still has a string running along the seam, snap off a slight bit of an end of the bean and pull the string in the opposite direction to remove it. String beans can be steamed, sautéed, braised, or stir-fried. You can also blanch them for about 60 seconds, drain, and set in a bowl of ice water for a minute or two, then serve with a tasty dill dip on a vegetable platter. If you boil the beans, keep in mind they continue to cook even when you remove them from water, so take them out a little early, or drain them, then rinse in cold water after cooking.
This immune-system-building vitamin offers a host of benefits. Vitamin C is an important nutrient necessary for collagen production, and is essential for maintaining the integrity and function of skin and bone tissue. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals and protecting the heart, kidneys, and lungs from disease. This essential nutrient, often found in large amounts in citrus fruits and raw vegetables, may play a role in reducing systolic blood pressure and heart disease risk.
Vitamin K, specifically vitamin K2, is helpful for regulating and directing dietary calcium in and out of the bone. It is also responsible for proper blood clotting and may aid in protecting the arteries from calcification.
A fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin A is involved in the development of rhodopsin, a molecule in the eye that promotes healthy vision. Vitamin A is also responsible for promoting the immune system, cell growth, skin health, and the formation of the heart and lungs as well as other bodily organs.
The majority of the manganese in the body is stored in the bones and organ tissue, mainly the liver and kidneys. Manganese is responsible for production and maintenance of sex hormones, blood-sugar regulation, brain and nerve function, calcium regulation and absorption, and carbohydrate metabolism.
B9 (Folate or Folic Acid)
An important nutrient necessary for normal cell division during pregnancy and infancy, folic acid (vitamin B9) plays a powerful role in the developing infant. For adults, vitamin B9 is also essential for proper metabolism, aiding in energy and the production of red blood cells.
String beans are high in antioxidants, which enrich your health in many ways, including improved cardiovascular function, especially when you eat both the pod and the beans. New studies also indicate that green beans help reduce inflammation and aid in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. String beans also may improve fertility rates because of their folic acid content.
- String beans are also known as green beans and snap beans. The name “string bean” originated because of a fibrous string along the curved seam of the pod. This string has since been bred out in most commercial varieties.
- Although string beans are commonly called green beans, there are more than 200 varieties, with pod color variations such as red, purple, and gold, as well as green. Regardless of pod color, the beans inside will always be green.
- For thousands of years, Native Americans relied on the balanced nutrition of the “three sisters”: beans, corn, and squash. This trio was planted together to support one another: beans add nitrogen to the soil to supplement the corn; corn stalks provide poles for the beans to grow on; and squash is a ground cover that helps the soil retain moisture.