Other Names: Baby French green bean, filet, flat green bean, French bean, haricot vert (France), Italian green bean, pole bean, snap bean, string bean, wax bean, yellow bean.
General Description: Green beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) are members of the common bean family, often but not always green in color, with long tender edible pods and small, unobtrusive inner beans. There are many types of green beans including purple, yellow, creamy white, and deep green, as well as flat and round beans. Green beans may be common, but they’re hard to beat for bright color, crisp texture, and juicy vegetable flavor. Green beans used to be called string beans because older varieties had fibrous side strings.
Almost all beans are machine picked, sometimes leaving small branchlets and unformed beans that need to be removed. Sort through them at the market so you don’t pay extra for waste. The exception is expensive, slender haricots verts, which come neatly lined up in boxes.
Light green to white wax beans have a tendency to be tough. The whiter they are, the older they are. Look for slender yellow to pale green beans.
Unfortunately the beautiful streaked markings of some colorful bean varieties are lost when cooked.
Season: All green (and other colored) beans are available year-round, with a peak in summer months. The one exception is the yellow wax bean, which is not available in hot summer months.
Purchase: Select beans that are clean, tender, crisp, well-shaped, and smooth. Look for velvety skin on green beans, a sign that they were freshly picked. Buy pre-snipped green beans only if the cut ends are green and moist.
Avoid: Green beans are susceptible to freezing and may become pitted, especially on the tips. Avoid beans with white mold or mushy tips. If you can see the shape of the beans in the shape of the pods, the beans are overgrown. Haricots verts deteriorate quickly. Inspect them carefully before purchasing, and avoid if dried out and shriveled.
Storage: Wash beans to maintain moisture before storing in a plastic bag or container in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days. Do not snap off the ends until ready to cook.
Preparation: Cut off the stem ends. Don’t cut off the curved tips if they are in good condition. Some snap beans may have side strings; pull these off if necessary.
Serving Suggestions: Toss cooked beans with pared orange slices, lemon juice, olive oil, and grated orange zest. Heat blanched beans with dill butter, made by combining finely chopped dill with an equal amount of softened butter. Combine cooked green beans, chickpeas, tuna, and oil-cured black olives to make a salad niçoise.
Flavor Affinities: Almonds, bacon, butter, dill, lemon, marjoram, olive oil, orange, pine nuts, tarragon, tomatoes, walnuts.
from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com