How to Choose, Store, Grow, and Cook Green Beans
I Love Green Beans and Here's Why You Should Too
I do, I love green beans. I like them steamed, sautéed, cooked in casseroles, and even when they're served with just with a few of the right seasonings too. I like them best when they are fresh. No green bean is as good as the one you grow in your garden, but even if you can't do that, you can still enjoy their goodness.
In this article, I'll provide some nutritional information that should win you over, tell you just a bit about choosing, storing, and preparing those fresh green beans, and share a few green bean recipes that I enjoy.
What's Great About Green Beans
You may wonder what's so great about green beans, simple, they taste wonderful and are good for you too. They are easy to prepare and easy to find as well.
- Green beans are a rich source of minerals like absorbable silicon, manganese, magnesium, potassium and more.
- They contain a large amount of the daily recommended allowance of Vitamins K, C and A as well as other vitamins.
- They provide dietary fiber and are good for bone health too.
- Green beans contain only a very minute amount of fat and add only 40-43 calories to your meal. (Keep in mind, you'll add calories when cooked in butter/oil or when adding in other items.)
You can learn all about the nutritional value of green beans on this page.
Choosing, Storing, and Cooking Green Beans
Green beans can be purchased fresh at most grocery stores and farmers markets or you can get them frozen or canned. Like any vegetable, any loss of nutritional value in the freezing and canning process is insignificant.
Choosing fresh green beans is easy. You want them to have a deep green color and to be crisp, such that they snap when you try to break them. Of course, avoiding beans with brown spots or discolored areas is important too.
Fresh green beans from your garden or the store can be left in a basket for a day before cooking. They can be placed in a sealed plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper for several days. If you want to keep them longer, you'll need to freeze them.
If you used canned green beans they need to be drained. If you want to reduce sodium, you can rinse and allow them to dry a bit.
For fresh green beans, the ends can easily be trimmed off with a knife or you can snap them off with your fingers. Then, they simply need to be rinsed and patted dry before cooking.
Like all produce, the longer you cook beans, the more nutrients you will lose.
-- Steaming is a great way of preparing green beans for this reason. Generally, you want them to be just tender crisp. You can test them after several minutes by spearing them with a fork. In my opinion, whether you steam, boil, roast, or sauté your green beans, the most important thing is to avoid overcooking them. The right consistency makes all the difference, and mushy is seldom what anyone wants in a green bean.
-- Boiling green beans in water may take 5-8 minutes depending upon how firm you like them. At lower temperatures, it may take a bit longer. If you will be baking them afterward (such as when making a casserole) or sautéing, you'll want to cut a minute or two off of the boiling time. To be safe, always check them with a fork until you know how firm you prefer them. If you want to sauté your green beans, you can do so after steaming or boiling, just use a bit of olive oil or butter and sauté for a minute or two.
-- You can sauté these vegetables by giving them a light coating of olive oil then place them in a frying pan over medium-high heat. They can cook for 5-6 minutes. If you prefer a more tender bean, you can parboil them for a few minutes first, before adding them to the frying pan to sauté.
When sauteing, you can add flavor with onion, garlic, and seasonings such as thyme. I like to add toasted almond slivers or slices and sometimes make use of a seasoned butter that I like. (The recipe for Yellow Pepper Butter is below and is just one example)
-- Roasting green beans is easy. Heat the oven to 400°, drizzle them with olive oil, season, and allow them to cook for 20-25 minutes.
Growing Green Beans
Green beans are easy to find at the grocery store. Of course, you can also grow your own green beans which is a very economical choice. Green beans can be grown in containers but are most often grown in a garden. (See The Gardening Channel for more information on growing beans in containers.)
- They require full sun and warmth. You don't want to plant your green beans until there is no longer any risk of a frost. You can start them indoors if you wish. The soil should drain well as root rot can happen with too much moisture. Without sufficient rain, however, you should water your green bean plants weekly.
- You can grow pole beans or bush beans. The seeds for bush beans are generally planted about 1" deep in the soil and about 2 inches apart. Pole beans are planted in mounds about 3 feet apart. Rows need to be spaced about 2 - 3 feet apart. If you grow pole beans, it's best to use a trellis to allow them to climb upwards they way they are intended to grow. You'll want to be alert to pests and diseases of course. The Gardening Channel can help you identify problems and find solutions.
- You'll be ready to pick your green beans soon after they reach full size, but are still firm and crisp; usually 7 or 8 weeks after planting. After you pick them, the plant will continue to produce more beans for later use for several weeks. If you want to maximize the season, you can plant your green beans in a staggered fashion. Planting several every couple of weeks through the middle of the growing season.
Simple Stove Top Green Beans
I make green beans nearly every week. I don't always use a recipe because, like nearly any vegetable, the less you do to it, the healthier it is to eat. But, for those who aren't sure how to make green beans, and want a little extra flavor, here is how I do it much of the time.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15-20 minutes
Serves: 4 individuals
- 3 cups fresh green beans
- 1 Tablespoon margarine or butter
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1 -1/2 to 2 cups water
- 1 tsp chicken soup base
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Trim and rinse green beans, mince garlic.
- Melt margarine in a medium saucepan, add garlic and sauté on low to medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add Thyme.
- Pour water into saucepan, increase heat to high, add chicken soup base. Bring water to a boil.
- Add green beans, return to a boil, then reduce heat to low - medium/low. (You want the water to boil gently)
- Cook for 10-15 minutes until tender-crisp.
- Drain. Season with salt and pepper as desired.
- If I'm wanting more flavor, I can add a bit of chopped bacon.
Sautéed Green Beans
Sautéing green beans is another common way to prepare these vegetables. Generally, you steam or boil the beans for a slightly shorter time period. Drain them, then sauté in olive oil, butter, or margarine. They can be seasoned based on your personal preferences. Below is one of the ways I've done it, primarily because we love Tarragon at my house.
- 2 -3 cups green beans
- 1 to 1-1/2 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon chicken soup base
- chopped Tarragon
- Remove ends from green beans and rinse.
- Cook green beans for 5 to 6 minutes. (steam or in boiling water)
- Melt 1 Tablespoon of unsalted butter in sauté or small skillet. Add 1/4 teaspoon of chicken soup base. Break up soup base with a fork. (soup base adds salt, so don't season with additional salt)
- Add green beans as soon as you drain them. (Otherwise, place them in ice water to stop the cooking process after boiling, then add when ready to saute)
- Sauté green beans for 1 to 2 minutes, adding chopped Tarragon to taste. Season with cracked pepper if desired.
Holiday Green Bean Dishes
There are of course many rich holiday dishes that have green beans as a focus. I have a couple of favorites of course. One I found online a year ago and it was immediately a favorite. This Green Beans in Yellow Pepper Butter is simple and delicious. It's merely a matter of chopping up some yellow pepper, sautéing, and then processing/blending with margarine and some pine nuts to toss with cooked green beans. If you use a low-fat margarine to reduce the fat just a bit, it's still rich and flavorful.
It takes minutes to prepare but is worthy of any holiday table.
If you're looking for something extra special though, I found another green bean recipe a couple of years ago that should satisfy those who like those really rich dishes with their holiday meal. Green Bean Blue Cheese Gratin is one that we have once a year. It involves whipping cream and Blue Cheese, so it's not one to have regularly if you care about heart health and so forth. On the other hand, Holiday meals are for delighting the taste buds and this dish can do that very, very well. My only warning is, don't get too generous with the Blue Cheese, it can overwhelm if you aren't careful.
Green Beans the Old Fashioned Way
Today, we know that over cooking vegetables removes a lot of nutrients. We also know that adding a lot of fat to our vegetables isn't always a good thing. However, years ago our grandparents and great grandparents tended to consume green beans a bit differently. I remember my grandmother cooking green beans grown in her garden all summer long. Her green beans were allowed to grow longer. They were larger and broader than many of the younger, more tender beans in most stores.
She cleaned the green beans and placed them in a pot with bacon or a ham hock. Some chopped onion might be added too. They were then covered with water, brought to a boil, and the heat was then reduced to a simmer and the pan was covered. They would simmer for an hour or longer, until they were as tender as she liked. The bacon or ham hock would be removed and chopped, returned to the pot, and the beans would be served. These beans were more tender. Sometimes no bacon was used, but instead she used a couple of tablespoons of bacon "fryings" to flavor the beans anyway.
I haven't eaten green beans this way in many, many years, but for those who like the ham and bacon flavor, this is the way I recall it being done.
Dressed Up Green Beans the Old Fashioned Way
This is another old-fashioned way of serving green beans. It's not much of a recipe but it's how we used to have them on holidays many, many years ago. There's no heavy sauce or any sauce for that matter, but the buttery, herb flavor of the stuffing made these beans "special".
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 30-35 minutes
Serves: 4-5 Individuals
- 3 -4 cups green beans
- 1 cup Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing
- 1 thinly sliced celery stalk
- 2 Tablespoons chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 4 Tablespoons margarine
- Trim ends off of green beans and rinse. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Pour 2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add green beans and cook on medium-high for 5 to 7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the stuffing. Melt 1 Tablespoon of margarine in a pan, sauté thinly sliced celery and chopped onion for 2 - 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and then stuffing. Remove from heat and mix.
- When beans are cooked, but still quite firm, place a layer of them in a baking dish, dot with half of remaining margarine. Sprinkle half of the prepared stuffing over beans. Repeat layers.
- Cover and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes. Uncover, and bake 5 minutes longer.
© 2011 Ruth Coffee