What is it?
A french bean (green bean or string bean) is a common bean that has been known as a crop for over 2000 years. It is a pod, picked before the beans inside have fully grown. We eat the pod before it grows fibrous (stringy/chewy) and inedible. Old, heirloom varieties (the ones we grow!) had one strand of string running down the side of the bean which you have to cut away and that’s why we sometimes call them string beans. These days, the green beans we find in supermarkets have been bred string-less making them easier to eat.
They are a great to grow because one plant yields so many green beans. They continue to produce throughout the summer so once you’ve picked the first lot, more will come along a few weeks later. An easy harvest because they pull off the plant easily, but with so many beans this can be time consuming- a good activity for little hands!
What to do with it?
When buying green beans, check that they snap with a crunch and aren’t floppy to make sure they are fresh. In the fridge they should last for 2-3 days and once you notice floppiness you might want to add them to a stew- they’ll still taste delicious!
They have a sweet subtle flavour. When lightly boiled or steamed they also have a satisfying and juicy crunch. People often chop off the ends, you can judge when to do this depending on the size and how tough they are. They can be served as a side dish or be put into a stew. They can also be fried with garlic and lemon, the inside of the bean almost acts like a straw sucking up all the juicy flavour. In Japan you can even find them battered in tempura. You might have seen them featuring in the Locavore deli counter in different salads. We had a vibrant purple variety this year which were beautiful raw as they kept their colour.
They’re healthy too… Green beans are a source of vitamin C, folic acid and fibre (of course!).
Here’s a yummy-looking recipe for Fire Cracker Green Beans
June – September