Local Green Beans
Most of us have tried green beans. Likely they were either cooked to mush or not cooked enough. Local green beans should be cooked very fresh, and cooked just enough to make them delicious.
If your local green beans taste like grass and have a squeaky texture, they aren’t cooked all the way. You don’t want them crunchy, as green beans are one of those vegetables that need to be tender instead.
Green beans on their own don’t have a lot of flavor, but tend to meld with whatever flavors you add to the dish.
The best place to buy local green beans is your local farmers market. You know the beans are fresh, and will be the most delicious ones you can find!
Finding Local Green Beans
Green beans are the unripe form of regular dry beans. They grow in bush or pole (vine) form. Green bean pods have small, underdeveloped beans inside them, and you can eat the whole pod with beans.
Fresh, local green beans are best, as their quality degrades quickly. They become limp and lose their sweetness and color. Supermarket green beans are bred to survive longer, at the expense of taste. Buy your green beans locally, and cook them quickly.
Local green bean season is during summer and early fall. Plant beans after the last spring frost, and 2 months later you can start harvesting them.
Bush beans are compact, and usually grow all their crop at once. Pole beans take more work, but stagger their harvest over time.
When planting bush beans, stagger your plantings every two weeks so you continue to get a harvest. With pole beans, the more you pick, the more beans will grow.
Heirloom green beans may have strings running up the sides of the pods, but most modern varieties have eliminated this characteristic. You should pull off the ends of the beans, but there should be no strings.
When buying fresh green beans, look for firm beans that snap in half when you bend them. Eat them quickly, because cold refrigerator temperatures will damage their cells and they will lose chlorophyll.
Local Green Bean Varieties
Green beans can be snap or string beans, wax beans, or haricot verts. They might look a bit different, but the flavor is fairly similar for all. There are purple colored “green beans” as well.
String beans refer to the string that you might see in older bean varieties. Technically, snap beans means they are stringless. They are all delicious and taste the same either way.
Wax beans are yellow beans. They lack the chlorophyll that makes green beans green, but taste the same. They will look different when cooking, and might be prettier on the plate if cooked for a long time because green beans tend to brown.
Haricot verts are literally the word green bean in French. French green beans are often longer and thinner than American beans. They have a slightly deeper, more earthy flavor as well.
Purple podded green beans look pretty, but the purple fades with cooking. They may be a bit sweeter than regular green beans.
You might also find Chinese long beans, which might be one or two feet long. Italian green beans are wider and flatter than American beans
Whether grown on a pole or as a bush, the flavor of green beans doesn’t vary much. When growing your own, it is up to you as to whether you prefer a long lasting harvest, or the ease of bush beans instead.
Preserving Local Green Beans
Green beans only have a short window after picking to enjoy. The beans get old quickly, even refrigerated. Eat your beans fresh, or look into longer term storage rather than keeping them in the fridge.
Freezing your beans is the best choice for nutrients and texture. Traditionally, you are supposed to blanch your beans before freezing because there is an enzyme that causes them to toughen if you don’t.
It’s easier to freeze without blanching, and some say it isn’t necessary. Try it both ways, and see which you prefer.
You can also dehydrate your green beans for long term storage. They can be used in soups and stews, but won’t be quite the same as frozen. You can also try making green bean chips as a delicious snack.
Cooking Local Green Beans
When cooking your fresh local green beans, the goal is to make sure they are cooked through. Green beans are not one of those vegetables that are better crisp. If your beans aren’t cooked thoroughly, they will taste grassy.
That doesn’t mean they have to be mush, though. It does mean they take some extra steps to cook properly. The goal is a bright green color with a tender-crisp interior.
One way to cook green beans properly involves blanching them first, so the insides are starting to cook before you saute or char them. Blanch for 2 and a half minutes for 2 pounds of beans, then saute them on high heat.
Another source says boil or steam the beans for 5-10 minutes, checking to ensure the beans are not still squeaky when you eat them. Once they are ready, drain and rinse under cold water. Then saute them in oil and seasonings until heated through.
Cookie and Kate says that blanching is an extra step that you can avoid with a different cooking technique. She says simmer half a cup of water and half a teaspoon of salt, add a pound of beans and cover.
Cook about your green beans ten minutes, then remove the lid and cook medium high until the liquid evaporates.
Another option is to saute the beans in seasonings first, then adding water and a cover to steam the beans until done.
Local Green Bean Trivia
Technically, green beans are the immature pod of regular beans. If you let the green bean mature you will get beans for drying.
In reality, green bean seeds have been selected for flavor, lack of strings, color, etc, so the mature beans might not be as delicious as those from a plant selected for dry beans.
Beans that are meant for green beans might take longer to mature (meaning more green ones for fresh eating), while those selected for dry beans might mature much faster.
Bean plants, whether for green beans or dried beans, are all nitrogen fixing plants. That means their roots can produce the nitrogen they need in the soil, and even add nitrogen for other plants later.