For many years the common name for these beans was string beans because they had a string that ran the length of the bean. Modern breeding practices have pretty much made these beans “stringless”. There are several varieties of this type of bean and they are distinguished as bush beans if they grow on a bushy plant or pole beans if they are grown on an upright plant. You may be surprised to know that these beans are part of the same family as kidney beans, pinto beans and black beans. Green beans, however, are harvested at a stage when they are immature. The bean inside the pod is just starting to form and the pod is still tender and edible. All of these beans are known as “common beans”.
While the majority of snap beans are a deep emerald green you will also find varieties that produce yellow or purple beans. They are all a nutritious source of vitamins, fiber and protein.
The fresh bean pods should be stored unwashed in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. When stored this way the beans should last up to seven days. Just as with other fresh vegetables the sooner after harvest they are eaten the more nutritional value they will have.
When you are ready to prepare the beans wash them under cool running water and remove the tips from both ends by cutting or snapping them off. If there is a fibrous string running down the side remove it at this time by pulling one of the ends you have removed down the length of the bean. Beans that are cooked whole will cook more evenly. Steaming green beans for about 5 minutes is the
healthiest way to prepare them. They can be used in salads, stir-fry, soups and stews.
Snap beans do freeze well and will retain valuable nutrients for 3-6 months when frozen. The process of blanching the beans before you freeze them will help retain valuable nutrients and better texture. Blanching is simply a process of steaming or boiling the beans for 2 to 3 minutes. This helps deactivate some of the enzymes that are responsible for reducing the nutritional value.
Here is the Dilly Bean recipe adapted from the Ball Blue Book:
2 lbs. trimmed green beans
4 heads dill
4 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2-1/2 cups vinegar
2-1/2 cups water
1/4 cup canning salt (don't substitute regular salt, this is chemistry!)
Pack beans lengthwise into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. To each pint, add 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 clove garlic and 1 head dill. Combine remaining ingredients in a large sauce pot (non-reactive, like an enamel or glass pot). Bring to a boil. Pour hot liquid over beans, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Remove air bubbles. Adjust caps. Process pints and quarts 10 minutes in boiling water bath.
Yield: about 4 pints.