There’s nothing like the refreshing snap of a fresh green bean. The early summer months are harvest time for fresh green beans (also referred to as snap beans). It’s easy to stand next to a bean vine and simply pick away at its bounty of drooping, crisp bean pods. In the kitchen, they make an easy-to-prepare, highly nutritious side dish that requires little cook time. Simply briefly sauté or steam them for a few minutes, and they soften slightly but still retain their pleasurable crunch.
Not only are they tasty, but each bean pod is bursting with nutrition. Incorporate green beans into your diet regularly, and experience the positive health effects they can have on your life.
Green Bean History and Culture
Green beans originate in the hot climate of Peru. They share the same parent,Phaseolus vulgaris, with other beans such as kidney, pinto, and navy beans. Migrating native tribes spread the green bean throughout the Americas, where Spanish explorers discovered them and brought them back with them when they returned home. Green beans quickly proliferated across Europe, and can now be found anywhere in the world. China currently produces the most green beans, producing 2,485,000 tons in 2008, followed by Indonesia at a distant 2nd with 830,000 tons.
There are many varieties of beans that are sold throughout the world. In the US, some of the most common green beans are the Stringless Green Pod, Kentucky Wonder, and Contender. There are two types of green beans that are used in cultivation: bush beans and pole beans. Pole bean plants “run” up trellises, or sprawl across the ground in vines. These more closely resemble the common bean found in nature. The bush bean has a single stalk that is dwarfed, and does not run like a vine. These are much more common in large commercial operations, as they can be mechanically harvested.
Green Bean Health Benefits
One cup of green beans yields 15%DV of vitamin A and 30%DV of vitamin C, a good amount for only 34 calories. These are both important for maintaining optimum health, and are also valuable antioxidants. Green beans offer additional antioxidants in the forms of manganese (18%DV in that same 1 cup serving) and a variety of cartenoids and flavonoids. All of these in tandem make green beans an antioxidant powerhouse, which is crucial in preventing various cancers and heart diseases. Antioxidants perform this function by seeking out and neutralizing free radicals that damage cells. These damaged cells, in turn, damage other cells in their vicinity, creating a chain reaction that negatively effects your health. Antioxidants stop nips free radicals in the bud, increasing overall health.
Beyond their antioxidant benefits, the high levels of calcium, vitamin K, magnesium, phosphorous and silicon all support stronger, healthier bones. Evidence is also beginning to emerge showing that green beans has anti-inflammation benefits, and may also prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. And, to boot, green beans pack in a bunch of dietary fiber into a few calories, leaving your digestive track clean and healthy.
Eating More Green Beans
Green beans are sold year round at most grocery stores, but they are at their peak freshness in the summer and fall months. Eat plenty of them while they’re around, and then wait for them to come back into season the following year. By the time you’re done bingeing on them in the summer and fall months, you’ll be tired of them. Once they come around the following year, you’ll be just as excited to eat them as the year before.
When selecting green beans, make sure they are firm and brightly colored. Flimsy beans indicates that they are past their prime, and will not hold their crispness when cooked. Break one in half; it should have a snap that you can both hear and feel. Store them in a plastic bag and keep them in your refrigerator crisper. They will keep for around seven days.
Beans can be steamed, blanched, sautéed, or eaten raw. They make great additions to any salad, and with a little oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, make a delicious salad unto themselves. Toss them into a stir fry towards the end of the cooking process, and they will soften slightly, but still be crisp on the inside. They can also be quickly pan fried and tossed with tamari or soy sauce to make a great side dish to almost any meal.
So, eat em’ while the eatin’s good. They’re bound to increase your overall health, especially when it comes to adding antioxidants to your diet. They will improve your bone health and digestion, all of which will leave you feeling better and more energized.