I loved tender green beans the first time I tried them and now always have a few bean bushes in the garden. It doesn't take many; perhaps five plants, to provide a constant supply of the tender beans. Green beans are descended from a bean ancestor that originated in Peru around 6,000 years ago. Migrating Indian tribes spread this vegetable through South and Central America before the Spanish Conquistadors took them around the world after 1700. Although green beans are not yet a big commercial crop in Trinidad, more farmers are presently cultivating them. The largest growers include the United States, China, Japan, Spain, Italy and France. The US produces 700,000 tonnes last year.
There are basically two bean categories: edible pod beans and shell beans. Green beans, phaseolus vulgaris, also known as snap or string beans, are the most popular edible pod bean. These beans are often called string beans because years ago a fibrous string ran along the seam of the bean. The string was noticeable when you snapped off the ends. Somehow that trademark has been bred out bean of the modern varieties. The snapping noise is the reason for its other nickname. Green beans are actually picked while still immature and the inner bean is just beginning to form. The variety may vary in size, but average about four inches in length, deep emerald green, and come to a slight point at either end. They contain tiny seeds within their thin pods.
Green beans are easy to grow and well worth the effort. They will adapt to almost any loose soil with a pH of 6 or higher. To make a few green bean rows, fork a well drained area ten foot by four foot mixing in some well-rotted chicken manure and a few shovels of limestone. Plant the seeds about an inch deep and four inches apart while keeping the rows separated by a foot to 18 inches. When the sprouts are about six inches tall, carefully mould around the base and add about a soda bottle cap of 12-24-12 fertiliser to the base of each bush. Green beans don't need much water; in fact too much water can be an enemy. Water once a week until they flower and start to bear, and then water three times a week. Replant every two weeks to have a constant supply of these tasty beans. If bugs are eating the leaves, spray once with a light pesticide as Malathion or Pestac. Beans actually nourish the soil by producing much needed nitrogen. Green beans are an excellent crop to plant in a field after a heavy eater like corn, which takes many nutrients from the soil.
When purchasing string beans they should be fairly stiff, and should snap sharply, with a spray of juice from the seam. If soft, they've been around too long and will taste disappointing. Avoid beans with obvious seed bumps pressing up through the pods as they were picked too late and will tend to be tough. I prefer to steam green beans as these beans will continue to cook after you take them out of boiling water. A good rule is to cook green beans as little as possible using the smallest amount of water possible. A trick to keep your cooked beans looking as fresh as possible is once they are boiled immerse them in a bowl of ice water for a few minutes to retain the colour and crispness.
Shirley Hall is author of The New
Caribbean Home Garden Handbook
GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE
Ingredients: two pounds of green beans washed with ends snipped, one half medium onion chopped small, two cloves garlic minced, half bunch of fresh parsley chopped or two TBS dried, one TBS fresh or dried basil, one sprig of thyme, pinch salt, half cup cheddar cheese grated, three quarter seasoned bread crumbs, one quarter cup softened butter or margarine (All spices may be substituted with three TBS Italian seasoning spice)
Method: Combine all seasonings, half a cup of bread crumbs and cheese in a bowl. Stir in soft butter and then green beans. Put in a oven baking dish. Cover with remaining bread crumbs. Bake for half an hour at 350.
EASY GREEN BEANS
Ingredients: two pounds green beans washed with ends removed and cut into one inch pieces, one pound tomatoes chopped, one stalk celery chopped, one medium sweet pepper seeded and chopped, one medium onion chopped, two TBS oil or butter for frying, salt, spices, and pepper to taste.
Method: Heat a large frying pan with oil, add all ingredients. Cook over medium heat for fifteen minutes or until beans are tender.
CHILLED GREEN BEAN SALAD
Ingredients: Two cups cooked green beans cut into one inch pieces, one onion – prefer red Spanish sliced into thin rings, tomatoes sliced thin, and tuna flakes may be added
Dressing: Two TBS oil – prefer canola or olive, two TBS vinegar- prefer cider, one TS brown sugar, one TS each oregano, basil or use two TS of Italian seasoning. Combine and spread over beans in a suitable bowl. Let sit in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.
HOT PEPPER GREEN BEANS
Ingredients: one pound green beans-tips removed, four cloves of garlic minced, one medium onion chopped, one hot pepper-seeds removed and minced as fine as possible, three TBS vinegar, two TBS brown sugar, two TBS soy sauce, one and a half TS cornstarch, three TBS sesame oil, salt and spices to taste
Method: Steam green beans for five minutes. In one bowl combine onion, peppers, garlic and green beans. In another bowl combine vinegar, soy, cornstarch, and sugar. In a large frying pan heat the oil and add the bean bowl mixture and stir fry for two minutes. Add the remaining bowl of ingredients and stir fry until beans are coated.
GREEN BEANS WITH ALMONDS
Ingredients: one pound of fresh green beans with end snipped, one cup sliced or almond slivers, one clove garlic minced, four cups ice water, two TBS Butter or margarine, pinch salt. A pinch of thyme may be added to your taste.
Method: Boil beans and cook uncovered for six minutes. Drain and then fill pot with ice water. Drain after two minutes. In a frying pan melt the butter; add garlic and almond pieces until slightly brown. Then add beans and just thoroughly heat before serving.