Green beans are called green because they are picked while still immature, while the pod is tender and edible and the seeds small and soft. Being immature beans, we eat both pod and beans. If left to mature on the plant, the pod would be too tough to enjoy and the beans would be large and hard. They are also called snap beans because, when picked fresh, they snap when broken in two. (In fact, always select beans that do not bend but snap. Otherwise, they’re not at the freshest.) Earlier versions were called string beans because of a fibrous string running the length of the pod which, fortunately, has been bred out of our varieties.
Green beans originated in Peru and are related to the beans commonly dried. Dried beans such as pinto, kidney, white beans and black beans are all soaked and cooked to tenderness. Green beans, however, can be eaten raw precisely because they are tender and delicious.
Green beans come in a variety of colors: all shades of green, yellow, purples and cream. They also vary in bean and pod size from very small French fillet beans to eight-inch Italian flat beans.
Pick green beans that are crisp, firm and cannot be bent. The pods should give little or no indication of the beans inside. Also pick pods that are uniform in color, usually a vivid green or soft, buttery yellow.
More to come on beans soon.