Most of us are familiar with green beans. They are enjoyed around the world and are a common staple in most food pantries. We treat green beans as a vegetable, but did you know they are actually legumes? Yes, they are! They are a VERY healthy addition to your plate, any time, practically any way you enjoy them.
Below is a comprehensive article covering all aspects of these delicious beans, from what they are to suggested recipe links. So, read on to learn more about green beans!
Green Beans 101 – The Basics
About Green Beans
Green beans are a common food in America. They have different names, such as green beans, snaps, snap beans, and string beans. Whatever they’re called, they are the same food. They do have cousins that are very similar in flavor and structure, but are yellow, purple, or purple/beige in color. Furthermore, although we usually treat green beans as a vegetable, they are actually in the legume family. What distinguishes them from other beans is that they have edible pods with immature beans inside.
Green beans are native to North, South, and Central America. Over time, they were carried around the world and are now enjoyed in literally all cuisines. In America, green beans are grown commercially in a number of states, including Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, Florida, California, New York, Oregon, North Carolina, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.
Nutrition and Health Benefits of Green Beans
Green beans are an excellent source of Vitamin K, and a very good source of manganese, Vitamin C, dietary fiber, folate, and Vitamin B2. They also contain a wide array of other nutrients including chlorophyll, making them a healthful food to include in the diet whenever we can. They also contain the mineral silicon, which is important for healthy bones, skin and hair. They also contain some protein, and are naturally low in sodium. Eating one cup of green beans, with a mere 44 calories, is almost like taking a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement!
Green beans are high in flavonoids, which are antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties. Such antioxidants have been found to reduce the development of blood clots. This in turn, can help to reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks, and strokes.
A research study found that green bean consumption may help prevent pre-cancerous polyps that often lead to colon cancer. Further studies revealed that green bean intake can reduce the recurrence of cancerous adenomas and colorectal cancer.
Green beans may also help to control blood sugar levels in diabetics. A study at the Central Food Technological Research Institute in India found that green beans are one of the vegetables known to have a definitive hypoglycemic influence on patients with diabetes.
The flavonoids and antioxidants in green beans have shown to be helpful in boosting the immune system and protecting our eyes from macular degeneration. Other health benefits from green beans include improved bone health and prevention of osteoporosis through their Vitamin K and select minerals, protecting us from and treating gastrointestinal issues through their fiber content, and improving fertility among women and protecting infants from neural tube defects through its folic acid content. There are plenty of reasons to eat more green beans!
Note that green beans do contain a lot of Vitamin K. If you take blood thinning medications it is important not to change the types and amounts of foods you eat routinely as it may affect the level of medications you need. Check with your doctor if you decide to suddenly eat a lot more green beans then you usually do.
Also, green beans do contain a low amount of phytic acid and lectins (in lower amounts than other beans) which may cause issues for some people. Therefore it is advisable to eat them cooked, rather than raw.
How to Select Fresh Green Beans
When buying fresh green beans, look for ones that are smooth and firm with a bright green color. Avoid those with brown spots and bruises. Their firm texture should provide a “snap” when broken.
How to Store Fresh Green Beans
Store unwashed fresh green beans in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Depending upon their age, they can keep for up to a week. However, when purchasing fresh green beans at the grocery store, the picked date will probably not be on the bag. Therefore, it is best to use them as quickly as possible, within a few days.
How to Freeze Green Beans
Wash your fresh beans in cold water. Snip off the ends and cut them into desired lengths, usually 2 to 4-inches long. Steam the beans or water blanch them (in boiling water) for 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately transfer the beans to a bowl of ice water and allow them to cool for another 2 to 3 minutes. Drain them, then package your prepared beans in freezer bags or containers. For best quality, use them within 6 months. However, they will be edible beyond that time frame.
Here is a video I prepared on how to freeze fresh green beans https://youtu.be/8Y-ra7zuSpE
Fresh vs Frozen vs Canned vs. Dried Green Beans
Fresh. With our modern transportation systems, fresh green beans are available most of the time in many grocery stores in America. They are delicious, crisp, colorful, and can be prepared any way you want. They are a wonderful option, but do be sure you have the time to prepare them soon after purchasing or you may be tossing them out. Depending upon their age, they may or may not last very long in the refrigerator.
Frozen. Frozen green beans are a convenient staple food to have stocked in your freezer. They have already been blanched, so they can be used with little preparation. They still have their bright green color as do the fresh beans, and their nutritional value is high since they are usually processed shortly after being harvested. Unless they are to be included in a soup or stew, cook them in as little water as possible for best nutrient retention. For best quality and nutritional value, use frozen green beans within 6 months (within 3 months is even better) of purchase. They are edible beyond that, but their quality may decline with age.
Canned. Canned green beans are a good staple food to have in the pantry when time is short and in case of emergencies, especially when power is lost. The beans can be eaten right from the can, if necessary. Many people prefer canned green beans because they have a softer texture than the frozen variety. But, if you prefer your beans to be crisp-tender, the canned option may not be your favorite. Their color is duller than fresh or frozen green beans, which may or may not be appealing. They may also have added salt and other ingredients that may be a concern to you. Drain, then rinse your canned green beans to reduce the sodium content. Some brands now carry green beans canned without added salt, which is helpful to those following a low-sodium diet.
Dried. Dehydrated green beans are carried by a number of retailers that specialize in food for long-term storage. They are a good staple food to have in your pantry for extended emergencies and power outages. They simply need to be rehydrated by adding them to a bowl with some water. Given a little time, they will rehydrate and be ready to use. From the dried state, they can also be added to soups and stews, and even be eaten as a snack, like popcorn. The nutritional value of dehydrated vegetables holds up well and they can keep in a cool, dry, dark pantry for years.
How to Prepare Fresh Green Beans
Fresh green beans are simple to prepare. Just rinse them in fresh water, remove the ends, and then cut them into desired lengths. They can then be boiled, blanched, stir-steamed, steamed, included into soups, stews, and casseroles, or used in any recipe calling for green beans.
Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Green Beans
Green beans are a staple food in most homes. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, doing the same thing all the time with the same foods. Here are some suggestions to help spark you into doing something different once in a while with green beans.
* Keep things simple when you’re in a hurry. Quickly blanch some fresh green beans for 2 or 3 minutes, remove them from the boiling water and toss in a little butter, lemon zest, a sprinkle of salt and some lemon juice.
* Quickly sauté some green beans in butter, olive oil, or vegetable stock along with some onions, tarragon, thyme, parsley, and chives. Remove when crisp-tender and sprinkle with toasted sliced almonds, if desired.
* Blanch or steam green beans then toss them with grape tomatoes and balsamic vinegar.
* Sauté some green beans with onions and mushrooms. Top with sour cream or cashew cream.
* Sauté some green beans with onions and garlic in butter, oil, or vegetable stock. Top with balsamic vinegar, a pinch of sugar, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste.
* Green beans go well with tomatoes. When in a pinch for time, top some cooked green beans with a little tomato sauce. Sprinkle with some Parmesan cheese, if desired.
* Serve cooked green beans with clementine or mandarin orange slices. Top with a mixture of orange juice, a little orange zest, a pinch of cardamom, and a touch of balsamic vinegar.
* Add some blanched or steamed green beans to your favorite salad.
Herbs/Spices That Go Well with Green Beans
Basil, capers, cayenne, chervil, cilantro, cumin, curry powder, dill, garlic, ginger, marjoram, mint, mustard, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, pepper, rosemary, salt, savory, tarragon, thyme, turmeric
Foods That Go Well with Green Beans
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, bacon, beans (in general), beef, cashews, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, fish, lentils, nuts (in general), peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pork, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, shrimp, sunflower seeds, tempeh, tofu, turkey, walnuts
Vegetables: Arugula, bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chili peppers, chives, cucumbers, fennel, greens, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, onions, potatoes, scallions, shallots, spinach, tomatoes, watercress, yellow squash, zucchini
Fruits: Coconut, lemon, lime, olives, orange
Grains and Grain Products: Barley, corn, kasha (buckwheat), millet, quinoa, rice (i.e. brown, wild), risotto
Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, cheese (i.e. cheddar, Gorgonzola, mozzarella, Parmesan, pecorino, Swiss), cream, crème fraiche, ghee
Other Foods: Honey, maple syrup, miso, oil (esp. olive, peanut, sesame, and walnut), pesto, soy sauce, stock, vinegar (esp. balsamic, cider, red wine, sherry, tarragon), teriyaki sauce
Green beans have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Casseroles, French cuisine, Indian cuisine, pasta dishes, pilafs, salads, soups, stews, stir-fries, succotash
Suggested Flavor Combos Using Green Beans
Add green beans to any of the following combinations…
Almonds + lemon
Garlic + lemon
Garlic + nuts (i.e. pine nuts, walnuts), olive oil
Herbs (i.e. parsley, rosemary) + nuts (i.e. pistachios, walnuts) + shallots
Honey + lemon + mustard
Lemon + pine nuts
Mustard + potatoes + tarragon
Onions + tomatoes
Green Beans with Tomatoes (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/GvTyb5ixIyE
Easy Steamed Green Beans (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/kiXVxSrbYGI
Fermented Green Beans and Carrots (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/LbkEqqmApzg
Green Beans with Garlic and Lemon (Using Frozen Beans) (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/HGYpQ1un0Oo
Easy Fresh Green Beans with Garlic and Lemon (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/yoe0F6WjrnA
Easy Green Beans with Mushrooms (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/utFqKY4izv8
Dehydrate or Freeze Fresh Green Beans (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/kA0AiYmqyGA
How to Freeze Green Beans (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/8Y-ra7zuSpE
Fast, Delicious Green Beans with Tomatoes (Judi in the Kitchen video) https://youtu.be/8a8CgmIGgMc
Spring Vegetable Salad with Mint Pesto https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/spring_vegetable_salad_with_mint_pesto/
Green Bean Salad with Lemon and Dill https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/green_bean_salad_with_lemon_and_dill/
Balsamic Green Beans with Pearl Onions https://www.southernliving.com/recipes/balsamic-green-beans-with-pearl-onions-recipe
Lemony Green Bean Pasta Salad https://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/lemony-green-bean-pasta-salad
Penne with Green Beans and Tomatoes https://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/penne-green-beans-tomatoes
Caramelized Spicy Green Beans https://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/caramelized-spicy-green-beans
Marinated Bean Salad http://whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=131
Fennel Green Beans http://whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=173
7-Minute “Quick Steamed” Green Beans http://whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=321
Healthy Green Bean Casserole http://www.hummusapien.com/healthy-green-bean-casserole-vegan/
Sticky Sesame Green Beans https://www.dawnjacksonblatner.com/recipes/sticky-sesame-green-beans/
Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia. (1993) So Easy to Preserve. 3rd edition. Athens, GA: Cooperative Extension Service.
Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.