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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Green Beans:

Green beans are known as French beans, Fine beans, and string beans.  They are also known as "squeaky beans" for the noise they make on the teeth when eaten.  The name "string bean" derives from the fibrous string that once ran down the length of the seam of the pod.  In modern times the string has been mostly bred out.  Green beans and other shell beans such as pinto beans, black beans, and kidney beans belong to the same family and are referred to as "common beans" probably due to they all derived from a common bean ancestor that originated in Peru.  They were spread through South and Central America by migrating Indian tribes and introduced to Europe and spread around the 16th century by Spanish and Portuguese traders.  There are two major groups of green beans, bush beans and pole beans. There are over 130 varieties known.

The first thing I remember about green beans is that they come in a bushel basket.  We would save the baskets and then use them to display produce.  My grandfather's grocery store kept two rows of bushel baskets in front of the store in which produce was displayed.  We would build up the baskets with cardboard  so there was only a few inches of display space on top but it would look like a full basket.   There was a roll down awning above that could be used to keep the sun from cooking the product on warm days.  The display had to be built every morning and taken down every night.  It was a lot of work.

Green beans have been  studied for anti-oxidant content.  In addition to vitamins C and K and beta-carotene green beans contain important amounts of the anti-oxidant mineral manganese.  In the area of phytonutrients green beans contain a wide variety of carotenoids and flavonoids.  The strong carotenoid and flavonoid content appears to provide potential anti-inflammatory benefits.  Green beans also contain high levels of lectins and may be harmful if consumed in excess when uncooked or improperly cooked.  Best to cook them.

Green beans are of nearly universal distribution. Fresh green beans are available year round, but are best in early winter, early summer, and early fall. Green beans can be steamed, boiled, stir fried, or baked in casseroles.

Select green beans that have a smooth feel and a vibrant green color, and that are free from brown spots and bruises.  They should have a firm texture and "snap" when broken.  Store unwashed fresh bean pods in a plastic bag and keep in the refrigerator crisper for about 7 days.  To prepare remove both ends of the pod and wash just before cooking.

So....Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but good.

Potato and Green Bean Salad:

2 lbs. of potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 lb. of green beans
1/2 c. canola oil
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Boil potatoes until fork tender.  Drain and set aside to cool. Steam green beans until barely tender.  Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl combine potatoes, beans, oil, vinegar, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  Mix well.  Add more oil and vinegar if needed.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.