Sure we can buy green beans, either fresh, canned or frozen, year round, but now and up till October is when they are in season and so abundant that you can enjoy as many as you’d like fresh. Hot weather can actually enhance the nutritional content of green beans (a.k.a. string beans or runner beans) by reducing their water content and developing their fiber.
Fresh is definitely the best way to eat green beans, as I learned long ago. As a child, I used to wonder why the green beans that came from a can had that tangy taste, slimy texture and yellowish tinge, in contrast to the pleasant taste and appearance of fresh ones.
Some suggestions for eating your fill of beans (after you’ve carefully washed them and snapped off their ends) at their peak time, now.
1. Just Plain Raw
Cooking can destroy vital nutrients and enzymes in vegetables — in green beans, it can mean the loss of 30 percent of their potassium, iron and magnesium and 20 percent of their vitamin C content. Raw green beans are a great ingredient in a salad, or (with the help of a food processor and some olive oil) they can be transformed into a dip.
2. Gently Steamed
Green beans contain vitamins A, C and K as well as folate and iron. Cooking them only briefly by steaming — all you need is a pot of water on your stove if you don’t have a bamboo steamer like the one above — still preserves many of their nutritional benefits. After draining and cooling the beans, they only need a little pepper, salt and butter (if you use this).
3. Tossed In a Salad
Gently steamed green beans work well in a salad as they readily absorb the flavors of whatever flavoring you choose. There are many ingredients to combine them with: pomegranate seeds and fennel, lemon and tarragon, almonds and quinoa, lemons and kale.
4. In Liquid Form
Green beans can be turned into juice; you might wish to add some apples or carrots if the result is too bitter. Adding some green beans to a smoothie (this one combines them with beets and raspberries) can give you a meal, or at least a sort of salad, in a glass.
If the thought of drinking green beans does not sound appealing, they can also be turned into teifeles zoldbab leves, a Hungarian cream of green bean soup.
5. Sauced Up, Stewed, Stir Fried
If you’d prefer your beans cooked, but don’t want to turn on the oven and heat up your house, green beans can be sliced on the diagonal to add color, texture and taste to a dish like this vegan pesto alfredo recipe. You can also stew them with tomatoes, squash and garlic for a dish recalling the Greek and Turkish lathera. Green beans work really well quickly stir-fried with a little sesame and soy and also ginger and tofu.
6. Sweetened Up
Green beans are actually the unripe fruit of certain varies of the common bean. They’re not sweet, of course, but they pair well with with fruits, including peaches, apples and raspberries (either the actual fruit or a vinaigrette).
Enjoy the beans of summer while you can!
Photos from Thinkstock