Ideas for fresh gar­den beans

Green beans, snap beans and string beans are the same thing

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FOOD - Mar­garet Prouse Mar­garet Prouse, a home econ­o­mist, c an be reached by writ­ing her at RR#2, North Wilt­shire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at prouse@pei.sym­pa­

I’ve been won­der­ing for years: how do green beans, snap beans and string beans dif­fer?

It turns out they’re the same thing. Each name just fo­cuses on one char­ac­ter­is­tic of the same type of bean: it’s green, it snaps when bro­ken in two if it’s fresh, and it may have a tough string run­ning down the cen­tre (although many green beans are now string-free). Green beans are picked young, while the pods are ten­der and the seeds are un­der­de­vel­oped. As the seeds ma­ture, they are called shell beans if eaten fresh or, pre­dictably, dried beans if dried in the pods.

We are grow­ing scar­let run­ner beans in the gar­den for the first time and are happy with the taste and tex­ture of these green beans, as well as the pretty red-or­ange flow­ers that adorn the climb­ing vines. I wasn’t sur­prised to read that the plants have of­ten been grown strictly as or­na­men­tals.

Now that our beans are com­ing on strong and I’m pick­ing some every day, we eat them of­ten. My old stan­dard cooking method, per­haps the most bor­ing way to pre­pare them, has been to break off the stem ends and boil the beans, whole, un­til just ten­der. It would be easy to get tired of them if cooked the same way every time, so I’ve been try­ing dif­fer­ent ways of pre­par­ing them.

Some be­lieve that green beans are poi­sonous if eaten raw, but I’ve popped enough of them into my mouth while pick­ing that I know there aren’t any im­me­di­ate ill ef­fects when they’re con­sumed in small amounts. In any case, beans aren’t usu­ally con­sumed raw, but they are good in sal­ads if blanched to brighten the colour, soften them slightly and trans­form the raw taste into some­thing a lit­tle more mel­low.

To blanch green beans, cook them in a steamer or in rapidly boil­ing water un­til they are ten­der crisp. Drain the beans, chill im­me­di­ately in ice water to pre­vent fur­ther cooking, drain and re­frig­er­ate them, wrapped in pa­per tow­els or kitchen tow­els, un­til ready to use.

You can dress them with a vinai­grette for a sim­ple salad or add other veg­eta­bles for a dish that’s more colour­ful and ro­bust. Last week I topped a bed of mixed salad greens with chilled chopped new pota­toes, sliced green onions, blanched green beans and sliced hard­cooked egg and then driz­zled com­mer­cial salad dress­ing over it all. It was a tasty make-ahead sum­mer meal, in­spired by the clas­sic Salad Niçoise.

Blanch­ing green beans also pre­pares them for use in hot dishes and saves a few min­utes in the din­ner­time rush. Add blanched beans to onions and other veg­eta­bles in a stir­fry, warm them in a fry pan with olive oil or but­ter and top with grated cheese or toasted al­mond slices or toss with sautéed sliced mush­rooms, sauté with crushed gar­lic in but­ter, or heat and serve them with a herb but­ter.

Dill goes well with beans, as fans of dilled beans will know.

In this lemony salad, blanched green beans are tossed with oil and herbs. It caught my at­ten­tion be­cause we have beans, pars­ley and mint grow­ing in the gar­den. The au­thor sug­gests serv­ing with grilled lamb chops and an orzo salad.

Green Beans with Pars­ley and Mint

Adapted from Fairchild, Barbara: “The Bon Ap­pétit Fast Easy Fresh Cook­book”. John Wi­ley & Sons, Inc., Hobo­ken, 2008.

750 g (1½ lb) green beans, trimmed

50 mL (¼ cup) ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil

45 mL (3 tbsp) minced fresh mint

45 mL (3 tbsp) minced fresh pars­ley

salt and pep­per

30 mL (2 tbsp) fresh lemon juice

20 mL (4 tsp) finely grated lemon peel

Cook beans in a large saucepan of boil­ing salted water un­til just ten­der, about 5 min­utes. Drain. Trans­fer to a bowl of ice water; cool. Drain well.

Trans­fer beans to a large bowl. Mix in oil, mint, and pars­ley. Sea­son to taste with salt and pep­per. (Can make to this point 1 hour ahead of time and let stand at room tem­per­a­ture.)*

Just be­fore serv­ing, mix in lemon juice and lemon peel. Serve at room tem­per­a­ture.

Makes 6 servings

* Re­mem­ber that, for safety’s sake, cooked veg­eta­bles in­clud­ing beans should not be left at room tem­per­a­ture for more than a to­tal of 2 hours.

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