String beans. Green beans. Snap beans. Not only are they healthy for your body but also they give back to the soil!
Whatever you call ‘em, green beans are the immature form of the common kidney-shaped bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, harvested before beans begin forming inside the pods.
Modern varieties of this native American vegetable no longer have “strings” down the sides of the pods that need to be pulled off before eating.
Green Beans Health Benefits
Not only are green beans a nice, crunchy, low-calorie food but also they provide many key nutrients.Young, tender green beans are a good source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, folate, vitamin K and silicon (needed for healthy bones, skin, and hair).
They’re also easy to grow, with the added bonus of improving the soil they grow in because of their ability to “fix” nitrogen from the air in nodules attached to the bean roots. When the nodulated bean roots decompose, they liberate the nitrogen to become available for the next year’s crop planted in that spot.
Most of green beans’ energy is stored within the seed! Without even using fertilizer, green beans have enough food to nourish them until their first true leaves appear.
Picking and Cooking With Green Beans
Fresh, locally grown green beans are easy to find in the summer. A green bean at its peak should have vivid color, a firm texture, and make that unmistakable “snap” when broken.
If you have a surplus or find them sold in bulk at a farmers’ market, they also freeze well, especially if you harvest them while slender and freeze them whole.
For around $25, you can buy a neat little hand-cranked gadget called a “bean frencher” that slices fatter beans lengthwise. I think the frenched beans taste better fresh or frozen than those chopped into short lengths.
Green beans go into just about any kind of salad, soup, or casserole. As a side dish, I especially like them sauteed with garlic in a little olive oil, then served hot or cold topped with toasted walnuts, almonds, sesame, or pumpkin seeds.
Pickled “dilly beans” are an old-timey favorite. Some people like them more than dilled cucumber pickles.
Green Bean Recipes
Here are a few more ways to use those fresh green beans!