The humble green bean

Haricots verts

It doesn’t get any simpler or more homespun than a pot of green beans. Biting into one, whether steamed, sauteed or simply fresh off the vine, is a true taste of summer. Green beans are coming in like crazy now, so pick while young and tender or visit a farm stand or market weekly for the freshest beans. 

Haricot verts

Green, yellow wax and purple beans at market

A fancy french type, haricots vert, is probably my favorite, but these tend to be fleeting, ephemeral. There are specific varieties of haricots verts that grow long and thin, but really any green bean can be eaten as haricots verts. You must simply pick and consume them when they are very young. 

Most haricots verts varieties are bush-type beans, meaning that the plants get about a foot tall and then cover themselves with long, thin pods. 

Bush beans vs. pole beans

Bush beans produce a quick crop in early June and are then done. Pole beans, whether purple, green, lima, Romano or just plain green beans like Blue Lake or Tendergreen take a bit longer to get started but will produce abundantly all summer. 

Easy to grow

Green beans of all types take little special care and are seldom bothered by insects and disease. You simply need to provide decent garden soil and plenty of sun and water. Pole type beans will need a trellis to climb (a chain link fence is perfect if you have it). 

Succession plant

To keep bush beans coming through the summer it’s necessary to succession-plant every two weeks or so. I put them in pots this year which gave me no room to do succession planting. So, I put them around the perimeter of a large pot, constructed a bamboo trellis, and then put pole green beans in the center. When the bush beans are finished in the next week or so, the pole beans will take over for longer production through the summer.

How to prepare

I grew up snapping beans on the front porch with my grandmother. She put the beans in a pot of water with a ham hock, salt, pepper and a little sugar and then boiled them for several hours. I’ll admit to not being a fan as a kid although whenever I taste them cooked this way now, a wave of nostalgia always overcomes me. 

As a grown-up, I discovered the French method of blanching beans that makes them irresistible and preserves all the good “beaniness.” You simply bring a large pot of water to boil, liberally salt the water, tip and tail the beans and then toss in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Plunging them into cold water stops the cooking process and gives you crisp-tender beans that are the essence of summer. All they need is a spritz of lemon and a dash of salt.

Blister your beans

To take them one step further for extra pizazz, blister them. Film a cast iron skillet with olive oil, mince a large clove of garlic and add the garlic and blanched beans to the skillet when hot. Saute, stirring frequently until the beans are slightly charred. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Blistered Green Beans

1 lb. green beans, trimmed  

1 clove garlic

olive oil to film the pan

salt  

Add the beans to boiling, salted water and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain and cool by running under cold water in a colander.  Smash the garlic clove and mince roughly. Heat a cast-iron skillet and film it with olive oil. Add the green beans and cook on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook, turning and stirring until the beans begin to char. Turn off the heat and salt the beans to taste. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.