Eat right: Go for the green beans

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Cheryle Jones Syracuse

Family and Consumer Science Staff

It’s a sure sign of summer. Local farmers and backyard gardeners are now picking green beans. There are many varieties of beans...some green, others waxy. Some are called snap and others Italian or flat beans. Shapes differ from round to flat and oval. The fibreless, tender, stringless varieties we know today were developed within the last 75 years.

When selecting beans, either picking them from your garden or at a local market, select filled but tender, crisp pods. Flabby, tough pods or bulging seeds means the bean is over-mature and has lost nutritional value. Fresh beans should be kept cold and humid in the refrigerator and used as soon as possible. They are best stored in a plastic bag and best if they are used within five days.

If you’re selecting them just for a few meals, purchase 1-2 pounds of snap beans. This will yield about four cups of cooked beans. If you want to preserve them, one bushel is about 30 pounds and will give you about 15-20 quarts of canned beans.

Lima beans are another story. One bushel of lima beans is about 30 pounds, but once they are removed from the pods, you only get about 6-8 quarts.

The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 encourages us to eat lots more vegetables. The recommendation is 2-1/2 cups of vegetables for adults every day. Beans can help meet that requirement. Snap beans are a fair source of Vitamins A and C and also give us some calcium, iron and potassium. One-half cup of snap beans has about 25 calories. They’re a fairly good source of dietary fiber, too.

Lima beans are also a fair source of Vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and potassium and they also give us folate. One-half cup of cooked lima beans has 90 calories.

Wait until just before cooking to wash beans. To remove the dirt, wash thoroughly in clean water, drain and rinse several times with cold water. Do not use soap, detergent or bleach. Lift the vegetables from the water to prevent re-depositing of dirt and residues.

Beans can be left whole, snapped or cut across into 1-inch pieces. For French-style green beans, cut on the diagonal thin pieces sliced lengthwise. Green beans that are cooked too long become mushy and lose their bright green color. They will also lose some of their nutritional value.

Cook fresh beans in one-inch of salted water (about 1/2 teaspoon to one cup of water). Heat to boiling. Cook green beans five minutes uncovered and then 10-15 minutes covered. Cook wax beans 15-20 minutes covered. Cook lima beans uncovered for five minutes and cover for 15-20 minutes longer. Adjust these times to how tender you like your beans. Simply season them with basil, dill, marjoram, nutmeg, savory or thyme for a low-fat offering. Lima beans can be seasoned with snipped parsley or savory or a small amount of butter.

If you want to freeze green beans, they should be blanched in boiling water first. Fresh green beans, like many other vegetables, contain chemical compounds called enzymes that cause the loss of color, loss of nutrients and flavor changes when they are frozen. These enzymes must be inactivated to prevent such reactions from taking place. These enzymes are inactivated by the blanching process.

Green beans and other vegetables are low-acid foods. They do not contain enough acid to be safely canned in a boiling-water canner. Green beans must be pressure canned to avoid the possibility of the food-borne illness called botulism. 

For detailed instructions on freezing or canning beans, contact the Brunswick County Center of NCSU Cooperative Extension at 253-2610. We’ll be glad to send you out a free fact sheet.

If you’re looking for a new way to serve green beans, here’s a recipe to try courtesy of Evelyn DeLoatch, former Family and Consumer Science Agent with NCSU Cooperative Extension in Alamance County.

Skillet Green Beans and Peppers

1 cup (about 6 oz.) green beans, cooked

1 red bell pepper, sliced in strips

1 yellow or orange bell pepper, sliced in strips

1 small onion, halved and sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsps. butter

Salt and pepper, to taste

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add cooked green beans, peppers, onion, and garlic. Cook slowly, stirring, until peppers are crisp tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.



 Source: Ohio State University Extension and Kansas State Cooperative Extension Service.