Locally Grown Farm Beans
String beans are so named because years ago they had a "string"
- a tough fiber that ran from one tip to the other. While the string has been bred out of
most varieties you'll see on the market, the name has stuck. Although there are several
varieties, they're generally divided into two categories - bush beans, which have a rounded
pod, and pole beans, which are usually large and relatively flat. One of the best of the
flat pole beans is the Kentucky Wonder - a bright green, fairly broad bean that reaches six
to eight inches in length. When fresh, young, and velvety, Kentucky Wonders have a sweet
taste and an excellent, crisp texture.
One virtue of pole beans is that they're usually picked by hand. There is a definite
difference between hand-picked and machine-picked beans. Machine-picked beans are usually a
less tender variety - they have to be tough to survive machine picking.
Machines also pick everything off in the row, while farm workers are a bit more selective.
Although hand-picked beans are more expensive than others, they may be a better buy in the
long run because there's less waste.
Fresh green beans are available year round, but they are best in early winter, early summer,
and early fall. That's when you'll get the early part of the crop. Beans picked early in
the season are smaller, sweeter, and more velvety. You don't want a long, thick or bumpy
pod that shows the outline of the beans inside. These are too mature, and will be tough and
Look for small to medium-sized pods that are velvety-looking and bright green, with no signs
of wilting or wrinkling. Fresh green beans should be tender enough to eat raw. The USDA
classifies string beans as snap beans, and that's exactly what the bean should do when you
bend one - snap. If it's rubbery and bends, it will taste rubbery too.
Do not wash string beans until you're ready to use them. Refrigerate in a paper bag or
unsealed plastic bag, and they'll keep well for a day or two, although it's best to use them
as soon as possible. If you've had them longer and they're starting to wilt, you may be able
to revive them in ice-cold water. Otherwise, add them to soups or stews.
Tender young green beans can be added raw to cruditˇs. To cook, simply steam or cook in a
small amount of water in a covered pan for five to eight minutes, adding a dab of butter,
salt, and pepper if desired. Don't overcook! String beans also freeze well if blanched for
two minutes before freezing.
Mama Louise's Potato and String Bean Salad
Other recipes from Produce Pete.