Many people consider green beans a vegetable more than a protein. Actually, they are both. Green beans, like all legumes are high in protein and fiber and low in fat. The most common type of green bean is called the “string bean” because of its fibrous contents. Snap beans and French beans are also other names. The French beans are more slender and elongated. Their scientific name is Phaseolus vulgaris.
Green beans are warm climate vegetables. There are basically two varieties, pole and bush. As their names suggest, pole beans grow on a more sprawling vine that can be trained to grow up a pole for easier harvesting.
Bush beans take an average of 57-58 days to mature before they can be harvested. They should be planted about 2-4 inches apart.
Common types of Bush beans:
- Blue Lake 274 (plump, tender pods; slow-developing seeds)
- Bush Kentucky Wonder (long, flattened pods)
- Derby (slim, tender, prolific; excellent pods)
- Pole beans take longer to mature, usually 65 days. Plant pole beans 4-6 inches apart.
Common garden bean types:
- Blue Lake(oval, straight, string-less, juicy and tender pods)
- Kentucky Blue (round; 7 inch pods)
- Kentucky Wonder (fine flavor, 9 inch pods in clusters)
Beans are very susceptible to the cold, so be sure to plant them after the last frost in early to mid spring, depending on your region of the country. They also have shallow root systems, so it is necessary to weed often around their rows. Never soak the beans before planting them in the ground. The best time to plant is the day after a good rain. Green beans generally grow best between May and October.
Nutritional Content and Health Benefits of Green Beans
Green beans are an excellent source of protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber. Their high fiber content aids digestion and the protein helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Therefore, Diabetics and people who suffer from hypoglycemia can benefit from eating green beans. There is evidence that a diet rich in beans can lower cholesterol levels, especially the triglycerides.
Green beans, like other beans, are a good source of folic acid and molybdenum. They also contain considerable amounts of iron, magnesium, phosphorus manganese, and potassium.
The folic acid and B6 in green beans make them a “heart healthy” vegetable as well because it lowers an amino acid called homocysteine, which is known to be high in people with heart disease.
Preparing Green Beans
Green beans should be picked when they are still slightly immature. That is when the inner bean is just beginning to form and is the juiciest.
Green beans are usually cooked, pod and all until they are tender. After you pick the bean, wash them then snap off both ends. Boil them for about 5 minutes. Many people do not recommend microwaving fresh green beans as it tend to dry them out and make the fibers too stringy and tough to eat. Most people boil or steam the beans. They hold up well if canned after they are cooked.
A favorite holiday dish is the green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup and fried onions. But they are great served by themselves, especially if tossed lightly in lemon juice and olive oil or with a pat of margarine. Some people braze them in a pan with pine nuts, garlic and pepper to taste. They can be blanched then chopped into salads.