The Fresh Table

String beans, snap beans or green beans? Whatever they are, they're good and good for you!

Green beans are a populist vegetable. They are a simple, unfussy vegetable kids and elders both enjoy.

Green beans are also known as string or snap beans and they are not always green. Yellow and deep purple varieties are increasingly popular. One of the locally grown varieties of purple beans is Royal Burgundy whichturns green when cooked. This can be an entertaining trick to enjoy when preparing with young kids. Yellow Romano is another fun alternative to plain ol' green beans.

So many choices! Local beans should be available in the market at least through the end of this month. If we are lucky with the weather, we can find them until first frost. But don't wait. This gets to be a game of risk here in Puget Sound. So enjoy them right now and include them in your harvest vegetable medleys as long as they are around.

Standard green beans of many shades are not the only options. My personal favorite 'smile' bean is known as French fillet, or Small Sieve beans. These are round, slender, firm-textured beans and are good tasting.

Minuette is a popular variety. These always make me smile and are a great bean for those hesitant bean eaters that may be seated at your table. The little bean beauties are dainty and reliable in their delicate taste. Sauté with a little butter and garlic and voila! You'll have a three-minute vegetable dish the most finicky eater will likely nibble happily.

Another great choice are the Roma-type beans. This is another name for the long, wide, flat-podded, Italian-style green beans. Frankly, I didn't care for these as a kid. But now I find them utterly delicious when blanched, then quickly sautéd and tossed in favorite spicy Italian sauces.

Chinese long beans are another staple in many of our homes. Also known as yard-long beans, they can really be 12- to 30-inches long. Usually harvested when around 18 inches, they come in two sub-types. Light green beans are tender and best cooked quickly. The dark green type is more fibrous and some think more flavorful. They eat best when prepared in dishes that call for long, slow cooking like braising.

Select young smooth firm beans that look tender. Avoid expanding beans which indicate the seeds inside are maturing. This means the bean is redirecting its energy to seed ripening and they are becoming fibrous - making for tough eating. Also avoid flabby or shrively beans that just aren't fresh any more.

Each type of bean has its own characteristics. So, ask your green grocer for help if you aren't sure. I delight in trying anything unfamiliar and happily rely on these experts for advice and suggestions.

Store beans unwashed in a perforated plastic bag in the warmest part of the refrigerator for up to three or five days. They can last longer, but it would be a pity. If you aren't going to use them right away consider freezing them. This is easy. Blanch the beans in boiling water for two minutes, rinse in cold water to stop the cooking and drain well. Pack them neatly into a heavy zip lock bag, squeeze out air and quickly freeze.

Here is a fresh bean dish that will be a great end-of-summer accompaniment for grilled steak, sausage or portabello mushrooms. A treat before the rains set in for fall.

Here comes the sun (flower)
Fresh green bean and potato salad

  • 5 small new potatoes
  • Salt
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, cut into one-inch lengths
  • 1 scallion, green part only, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced dill weed
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Pepper

Place potatoes in small pot with salted water to cover. Bring to a boil. Cook on medium-high heat 25 minutes. Add green beans. Cook another five minutes or until potatoes and green beans are tender. Drain well. Cut potatoes into bite-size pieces, and place the vegetables in salad bowl. Stir scallion, dill weed, sour cream, vinegar and pepper to taste together in a cup. Stir into potatoes and mix well. Makes two servings.

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