One of the joys of late summer is experiencing the abundance of the harvest as many of our favorite vegetables come into their peak season. At this time of year, there is an explosion in the variety and colors of produce items available at the market. One late-summer favorite that is abundant right now is the green bean.
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When I was growing up, we referred to them as string beans, although the "string," a fibrous strand that runs down the center of the bean, has been bred out of most modern varieties. Also known as snap beans, green beans are picked while still immature and the inner bean is just beginning to form. Any bean picked in this immature state is considered a "green" bean. That means that green beans actually come in many colors other than green.
Yellow wax beans sport a cheerful yellow color and often have a waxy outer surface. Purple beans have an arresting dark purple color. That color changes to green as they are cooked because the chemicals which give them their purple hue break down when heated. Perhaps the most unusual variety of green bean is one called "Dragon's Tongue." It is a long, flat bean that has purplish streaks running through a green background.
6 small new potatoes, boiled
1 pound green beans, lightly steamed
½ pound mixed greens
1 cup artichoke hearts
6 tomato wedges
3 hard boiled eggs, halved
½ cup black olives
1 (6-ounce) can tuna packed in water
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon garlic, smashed with salt until paste
Pepper to taste
9 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
In a bowl, whisk together white wine, Dijon, garlic, and pepper. Drizzle in olive oil while whisking constantly. Arrange salad decoratively on a platter. Drizzle with the dressing.
Recipe from Sara Moulton, foodnetwork.com.
Green beans are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese. They are very low in calories while being high in dietary fiber. According to George Mateljan, author of The World's Healthiest Foods, few foods compare to green beans in their number of helpful nutrients for arteriosclerosis and diabetic heart disease.
The season for green beans runs from late summer through early fall. This is when the quality and variety is best and the price is the lowest. When selecting green beans, look for nice brightly colored beans without rust spots. A fresh bean will "snap" crisply when you break it. Maybe that's why they're also called snap beans.
Green beans are very perishable. Plan to use them soon after buying them. They are versatile and can be blanched or steamed and eaten as is, or incorporated into salads, soups, casseroles or stir fries.
Green beans are a classic ingredient in Salad Nicoise, a French cold salad dish that combines steamed green beans and potatoes.
David Ottoson owns Rainbow Foods and has bought, sold and written about food and health for 20 years.