I picked the first of my favorite summer vegetable yesterday.
I'll admit that my favorite vegetable is usually the one on my plate…. But I have a particular fondness for fresh green beans.
Like sweet corn, they are best picked, cooked and eaten within a few hours.
One of the beans I planted this year is purple.
Even the bug is in green and purple.
There are over 14,000 members of the bean family, but only a small percentage are grown for human food.
Beans come in 3 main types: fresh, shelling and drying.
Fresh beans are eaten when young and the seeds are immature. Both the pod and bean are eaten. They are commonly called green or snap beans.
Shelling beans have matured longer in the pod. The seeds are larger and the pod is not eaten. They are 'shelled' like peas and cooked fresh.
Drying beans (kidney, pinto) are left to mature completely, removed from the pod and dried.
There are beans bred specifically to be at their best for each use, but some, like Kentucky Wonder, can be used in all three stages. Some, bred for drying, will have a tough, stringy pod if eaten young.
For the home gardener, unless you live in a climate with a very long growing season, there simply may not be enough time to grow beans for drying.
The other consideration is whether to grow bush or pole beans.
Bush beans grow on low bushes. They are ideal for the gardener who plans on freezing or canning the crop. They normally produce one large crop, then, a few weeks later, another, smaller crop.
Pole beans climb and need to be supported either on a trellis-type system or a tee-pee. I use wooden posts with cross beams and string for the beans to climb on. Pole beans produce a smaller crop continuously. I will normally pick every 2 or 3 days for about 6 weeks. There will be a peak week where I have enough to freeze or give to the neighbors.
Freezing green beans, if you have the extra, is simple: Blanch in rapidly boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain and cool immediately in ice water. Pack in freezer bags and freeze.
And I just did a bit of research and learned that blanching with a bit of baking soda or frying in butter will preserve the purple color…. I'll try that tomorrow.
As to the taste – green, yellow and purple all taste the same.
Next year I have to find some yellow pole beans…. I do like colorful food!
Braised Green and Purple Beans with Green and Purple Basil
8oz (250gr) green and purple beans or all green
3 shallots preferably freshly dug
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup chicken stock
handful green basil, snipped
handful purple basil, snipped
2 tsp butter
Top and tail beans…cut off the ends. Cut in half. Cut shallots in half. Heat olive oil in a small skillet. Add shallots and sauté until starting to brown about 5 minutes. Add beans, stock, cover and simmer over medium heat until just barely tender, about 7 minutes. Uncover and cook off any remaining liquid. Remove from heat, add butter, herbs, stir to combine and serve.
Don't you just love summer?