More than green
Fresh summer beans come in many colors
No, Matilda … all fresh beans are not green. They come in many colors!
I was recently surprised to learn from local grower Jim Tucker that some people aren’t aware that not all fresh beans are green. The supermarket has trained us well, with canned and frozen “green” beans.
Green beans were once called string beans because they had a tough, stringy membrane you had to remove before cooking or eating them. Newer varieties lack this string, so they’re known as snap beans — you still have to cut or snap off the stem end before using.
Beans are native to the western hemisphere. Along with corn and squash, they made up the staples of the Native American diet. Peas — both English green peas, middle-eastern chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) and Oriental pod peas — come from the eastern hemisphere.
There are two main types of beans: bush beans and pole beans. Both types come in many sizes and hues. Pole beans grow on tall vines that need to climb, and ripen gradually; think of Jack and the Beanstalk. Bush beans grow on bushes about 2 feet tall; they ripen all at once.
Beans are a good source of vegetable protein, vitamins A, C and K, folic acid, potassium, iron and magnesium. They’re rich in fiber and antioxidants. One cup of fresh beans contains about 40 calories.
I know folks who like to eat beans raw, but most find raw beans too tough to eat. Steam, boil, stir-fry, or saute them. Be sure not to cook too long, or their color will fade and their texture will become mushy.
Green, yellow, purple, and multi-colored beans are plentiful at local farm stands and farmers’ markets right now. They are good added to soups, salads, casseroles, Oriental stir-fries, and skillet dishes. At this time of year, bean salads are a popular dish to bring to summer picnics and potlucks.
Pasta, Bean and Greens Salad
1 cup penne pasta
4 cups beans of various colors
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Few basil leaves
2 large tomatoes
3 or 4 scallions, white and green parts
1 cup minced fresh arugula
2/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Optional ingredients: olives; pickles; other beans (black or kidney) or cooked lentils; thinly sliced salami or ham; hard-cooked eggs
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
Steam beans to desired tenderness. Set aside to cool.
In a large salad bowl, combine olive oil, crushed garlic, salt, minced basil, and balsamic vinegar. Stir in reserved pasta and beans.
Add diced tomatoes, arugula, sliced scallions, and parsley. Stir to combine. Add any optional ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with crumbled feta.
Makes one large salad bowl or about 4 to 5 servings.
New Potato and Summer Bean Soup for Two
1 Tablespoon butter or olive oil
1 or 2 cups small new potatoes, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 red onion
2 or 3 mushrooms (I used baby bella)
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1 carrot, sliced
1 or 2 handfuls of beans (1 or 2 cups) (I used a handful each of green and yellow)
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup water
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup fresh minced parsley
Sour cream or yogurt for garnish
Melt butter or heat oil in the bottom of a 2-quart kettle.
Wash and slice potatoes; add; sprinkle with salt and pepper; stir; cover and cook on low 5 minutes.
Peel and dice the onion, and stir in. Continue to cook on low as you clean and chop the mushrooms, carrot, and green pepper. Stir after each addition to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
Add the beans, broth, and water. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and continue cooking about 10 minutes, or until everything is tender.
Add milk and parsley, return to a simmer and cook one minute.
Ladle into bowls. Add a spoonful of plain yogurt or sour cream to each serving, and stir to combine.
Fresh Bean and Mushroom Stir-Fry
1 or 2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces mushrooms
1 quart summer beans
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast or thigh or ham steak
Heat oil in a large skillet over low heat. Peel and dice the onion; add. Sprinkle with salt. Wash and dice the carrot; clean and slice mushrooms. Stir into the onion. Cover, and cook for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure it’s not sticking or burning.
Cut the meat into strips. Stem and string the beans.
Turn up the heat, add a little oil if needed, and stir-fry quickly for several minutes, or until cooked through.
For a Mexican twist, top with salsa and sour cream.
For an Oriental dish, combine 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, 2 Tablespoons white wine, a half-cup of chicken broth and a teaspoon of corn starch in a bowl. Stir into the skillet and cook until thickened, 1 or 2 minutes.
Serve with a grain like rice or barley, or couscous.
Serves 3 to 4.
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Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Words Are My World.