Green beans, French beans, string beans, fine beans or haricots verts if you’re feeling up market, come in green, purple and white varieties and are specifically cultivated to be eaten fresh rather than canned or for their seeds to be dried as a legume. They are grown all over the world and are usually 8 to 12cm long.
They are a great source of fiber, vitamins A, C, K, B6 and folic acid as well as minerals including calcium, silicon, iron, manganese, potassium and copper.
Because green beans are grown all over the world, they are used in all sorts of different ways – not only as a vegetable, but in salads, stirfries, curries, soups and tarts.
Below are some ideas from around the world:
As a Vegetable
Boil, steam, sautee, roast or griddle beans and toss them in a simple dressing, brush with butter and serve with toasted almonds or hazelnuts, try tossing with a little crispy bacon, Parma ham, Parmesan cheese or crumbled crispy sage leaves. Use them in the same way as asparagus, just adjust the cooking times a little.
The most delicious soup I ever made with green beans was a summer vegetable one with whatever was ready in the garden. There was onion, celery, beans, fennel, loads of herbs, cut everything up to be about the same size and simmer gently in some good stock for 10min or so until the veg is just tender and all of the ingredients are still a vibrant green colour, delicous! Green beans in a soup tend to keep their shape, so stick to chunky, minestrone type soup and don’t be tempted to puree it.
In a Salad
The classic green bean salad is Salad Nicoise, from Nice, France, the main ingredients are green beans, tomatoes, red onion, lettuce, hard boiled eggs, anchovies and black olives, tossed with a garlic and herb dressing, as with most recipes, there are loads of variations, – all the ingredients that are prevalent in that part of the country. I often make a similar salad, but just add whatever’s in the fridge – it could be chicken, fennel, avocado etc, let your imagination run riot!
In a Stir Fry
Green beans really lend themselves to stir fries because of their size. Depending on their thickness, they can sometimes take a bit longer to cook, just blanch or steam for a few minutes before adding to the pan. They go with any meat or make a great vegetarian dish.
In a Curry
If you’re adding green beans to a curry, cut them into bite size lengths and add them to the pot. I add them to any kind of curry, to increase the amount of vegetables that I’m eating but it also ekes the meat out and makes a dish healthier and cheaper. Here’s my Thai Green Curry recipe.
In a Tart or Pie
The important thing here is to par cook the beans first, either by blanching or steaming otherwise they won’t be tender enough in the finished tart. I often put green beans into fish pie along with leeks and either carrots or red peppers. The extra vegetables add colour and flavour.
A frittata is a great dish to make with new potatoes, beans, broccoli, herbs and a handful or two of frozen peas. Add some good flavoured cheese to round off the flavours.
Let me know your favourite way to eat green beans…