Latin name: Phaseolus vulgaris
Other names: haricots verts
Uses: fresh, frozen, canned, or freeze-dried vegetable
Green beans are the same exact species as the shelling beans we usually buy dried — we just pick them when they’re young and fresh (and they’ve been bred over the years to have tender, stringless pods). The two types of green beans are distinguished by their growth form — bush beans grow in a low, bushy habit and pole beans climb — but the beans largely taste the same. Select firm beans without mushy spots, stash them in a bag in the crisper drawer of the fridge, and use them within a few days.
Why is green bean healthy?
Green beans are great sources of fiber, vitamins (A, C, K, and several Bs), and minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. They’re high in folate, which is essential for pregnant women and important for everyone as a regulator of the hormones responsible for healthy sleep and mental wellbeing. The “green” in green beans (and so many other vegetables) comes from chlorophyll, which is being studied for possible anti-cancer properties.
What does green bean taste like?
Green beans contain several aromatic compounds that bring a grassy flavor that is aptly green and beany, evocative of summer. Another of the compounds, octenol (also known as mushroom alcohol), has a mushroom flavor, and could explain why green bean casserole has enjoyed such an enduring popularity.
Where does green bean grow?
Along with most dry beans, green beans hail from Mesoamerica and South America; the wild forms originated from northern Mexico to northwest Argentina and were domesticated during several distinct events in approximately 8,000 years ago. Green beans are grown everywhere in the world today (though China produces 75% of the world crop).
How do I prepare green bean and what do I pair it with?
You usually want to snap the stem ends off of green beans before you cook them, but tender young haricots verts are usually ready to cook as-is. Blanching or steaming will best preserve the snap and color, and pickling will extend their shelf life by months.
You can use green beans in much the same way as you do asparagus — almonds, soft-boiled or mimosa eggs, lemon/vinegar, olive oil/butter (and yes, cream of mushroom soup) are sure paths to unlocking a green bean’s potential; so are garlic, fermented black beans, soy sauce, chile, and a ripping-hot wok. They love the warm-weather sugar of fresh tomatoes, corn, summer squash, and sweet onions.
One of the predominating aromatic compounds of green beans, 1-hexanol, contributes the smell of freshly cut grass. It’s also one of the 20+ chemicals in a honeybee’s alarm pheromones, produced in the bee’s Koschevnikov gland (located near the sting shaft) when it stings to signal the need for backup. In one study, this chemical was shown to recruit significantly more bees in the attack than other compounds, and even helped them fix on a fleeing target. Be careful munching green beans near beehives!