Posts Tagged ‘green beans’

Seasonal eats: 10 reasons to buy fresh green beans

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Photo by Megg, via Flickr

Green beans (also known as string or snap beans) are at their peak in the summer months. Besides adding flavour, texture and vibrant colour to many dishes, they’re nutritional powerhouses, full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other health-protecting properties.

You’ll find green beans in grocery stores year-round, but they’re much tastier and more nourishing eaten fresh, so seek them out at farmers’ markets and farm gates or enjoy them as part of your CSA basket. Better yet, grow them yourself and eat them straight off the vine.

Green beans have a long history in the human diet. Along with other members of the common bean family (phaseolus vulgaris),  they originated in Central and South America thousands of years ago and were introduced to the Mediterranean – along with corn, squash and other indigenous Native American crops — after Columbus returned from the New World in 1493.

Despite the “common” label, they’re exceptional in many ways. Here’s why they deserve a place on your dinner table.

  1. Their clean flavour makes them an ideal accompaniment for meat and poultry, other vegetable dishes, and international cuisines.
  2. Their crunchy texture adds good mouth-feel while their emerald green colour brightens the plate.
  3. Like most veggies, they’re low-calorie.
  4. They’re excellent sources of vitamins A, K and C.
  5. Fresh green beans boast a higher overall concentration of antioxidants (including vitamin C and manganese) than other foods in the pea and bean families. Antioxidants can help prevent some forms of cancer and heart disease, and enhance your immune response to infections.
  6. They offer cardiovascular benefits as a result of their strong antioxidant profile, and possibly their omega-3 fatty acid content as well.
  7. Early research suggests that green beans’ carotenoid carotene and flavonoid content may provide anti-inflammatory benefits, potentially offering protection against type 2 diabetes. (Carotenoids and flavonoids are responsible for many plant colours and act as antioxidants.)
  8. The vegetable is a good source of nutrients such as fibre, folate, Vitamins B6 and B2, and potassium. It also contains vitamin B1, iron and calcium.
  9. Green beans are easy to prepare. They retain more of their health benefits when steamed or sautéed whole, and can be combined with other veggies like corn, cauliflower, red peppers and mushrooms, or included in main dishes, soups or salads. (For recipe ideas, try sources like Food & Drink, Bonnie Stern’s website, Food Network or Eating Well.) They’re also a frequent ingredient in French cuisine (think salade Niçoise or haricots verts almandine) and Asian dishes.
  10. They freeze well and can also be canned or pickled. (Note: Freezing will retain more nutrients than other types of processing.)

My favourite bean dish is Madhur Jaffrey’s spicy, garlicky Gujarati-style green beans. What’s yours?