Green beans have an American heritage. The origin of the plant is in Central America. Prior to any Europeans arriving, green beans were cultivated throughout North and South America.
The green bean has several nicknames including, string bean, snap bean and French bean. The name string bean comes from a string found in their pod that is removed prior to eating. This nickname is a bit old-fashioned, because science has figured out how to grow green beans without the string. French beans refer to the style in which green beans are often cut into thin strips. French style green beans can be found frozen or canned, and for the more culinary inclined, there is a peeler you can purchase that makes perfect, fresh, French cut green beans.
Green beans are low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol. They are a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C, Magnesium and Potassium, and a very good source of Vitamin A and Folate. These factors and nutrients all help to reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and hypertension. Green beans are also a diuretic and may be used to treat diabetes.
Age to introduce: about 8-10 months (pureed or mashed). Green beans can be high in nitrates, which deplete iron stores and can lead to anemia. It’s safe to introduce fresh green beans after your baby is more than 8 months old. Jarred baby food is tested for nitrate levels and can be fed to babies 6-8 months old.
Green Beans for the family
At the market: Green beans are available year round, with a peak season of May to October. Good quality beans should have long, straight pods and be well-colored. They should also be free of decay or blemishes and snap easily when bent. There are some interesting varieties of green beans on the market – Chinese yard long and French haricot verts are two that you might consider trying.
Storage: Refrigerate unwashed in a plastic bag.
Preparation: Trim or snap off both ends. (an excellent job for your little kitchen helper). Wash in clean, cool water before cooking. Here are a few easy ideas to add green beans in your meals:
- Layer blanched green beans, tomato slices, and Vidalia onion rings on a platter. Drizzle with a Dijon vinaigrette.
- Sauté green beans in butter until crisp tender. Sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese and crisp bacon bits just before serving.
- Add a dash of balsamic vinegar to sautéed green beans just prior to serving.
- Add chopped (1/2 inch length), uncooked greens beans, to soup or risotto prior to cooking.
- Thaw and drain a package of frozen French-style green beans and add it to a stuffing recipe.
- Green beans and firm tofu are the perfect ingredients for a spicy Chinese stir-fry.
- Make an easy 3 bean salad for picnics, potlucks and block parties:
- 1 can (16 oz.) each: green beans, red kidney beans and garbanzo beans (choose low or no salt)
- Drain and rinse beans for 60 seconds under cold water. Place beans in a salad bowl.
- Add 1 small red onion cut in very thin slices, 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice and 2/3 cup of Italian Salad Dressing
- Toss to mix flavors. Can be made a day ahead. Refrigerate.