Green beans are a staple at many family dinners, picnics and church potlucks. These bright green and crunchy beans are available year round, but typically grown in North Carolina during the spring and summer. Green beans are also called snap beans (the reason for this nickname is the snapping sound when broken) or string beans. However, today most green bean varieties are stringless.
Choosing Fresh Beans
Raw fresh green beans should be tender, long and slightly stiff. Although green beans can vary in size, they average about three to four inches in length. They are usually deep emerald green in color and come to a slight point at either end. Choose fresh, well-colored beans that snap easily when bent.
Eating green beans can definitely add nutritional benefits to any healthy diet. They are a naturally low-calorie and fat-free food, which provide both a good source of fiber and source of vitamin C. The vitamin K provided by green beans—25% of the daily value in one cup—is important for maintaining strong bones.
Fresh green beans should be washed only when you are ready to cook them, not before refrigerator storage. You can refrigerate green beans in plastic bag for up to a week. Beans can be used whole, cut in half, cut diagonally or French-cut (a lengthwise cut). If you want sweet tasting, crisp beans cut them as little as possible.
Green beans are often cooked by steaming, boiling, adding to a stir-fry, or baked in casseroles. Ahh! The green bean casserole!—well known as being part of holiday dinners and family reunions. Despite how tasty this traditional casserole is, it does not fare to be the healthiest way to prepare green beans, averaging about 165 calories with 9 grams of fat and 600mg of sodium per serving. Boiling, steaming and microwaving are also popular ways to prepare green beans. Whatever cooking method you choose, remember to cook green beans as little as possible, using the smallest amount of water. Beans will continue to cook after you take them out of boiling water.
Recipe: Honey Orange Green Beans
- 3 tablespoons honey
- ½ orange, zested
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 dash ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tomato, diced
- Stir honey, orange zest, garlic, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, pepper and water together in a bowl. Add green beans and toss to coat. Allow to soak for 20 minutes, mixing every 5 minutes.
- Heat olive oil in a saucepan over low heat; add green beans to the hot oil and cover the saucepan.
- Pour sauce into the pan and cook, shaking the pan regularly, until the beans are slightly tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add diced tomato to the green beans, replace the cover, and continue cooking until the green beans are cooked though yet slightly crispy, about 5 minutes more.
Nutritional Information per Serving (recipe serves 4): Calories: 88, Total Fat: 1.3g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Fiber 3g, Carbohydrate 19g.