Green beans tasted great the first time I tried them, yet bush beans don’t seem to come well in our grow boxes and take up a lot of space. It seems the water necessary for the other types of vegetables was unhealthy for the beans.
Looking in seed catalogues, I saw there was a variety of green bean known as the “pole” bean because it will grow up a pole. Necessity mothered another thought and I began to train my bean bushes to climb.
First, it doesn’t take many bean plants to feed a household. If you plant these beans at the edge of your garden or along a fence, with a little help moving and twisting their vine tendrils the bean production won’t take much space. I have the vines protecting peppers and cauliflower from the severe heat of the afternoon sun.
A family should need only about five plants to provide a constant supply of the tender beans. Green beans are descended from a bean ancestor that originated in Peru, maybe 7,000 years ago. Migrating Indian tribes spread this vegetable through South and Central America before the Spanish Conquistadors took them around the world after 1700.
Green beans are expensive in Trinidad, but prices should decline as more farmers cultivate them. The largest growers include the United States, China, Japan, Spain, Italy and France.
There are basically two bean categories: edible pod beans and shell beans. Green beans are actually immature. If the edible beans get too old, you shell them for the inside seed bean and eat or replant that.
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. In the beginning they require tender loving care. The vines start meandering and you will need to have sturdy posts ready about six to eight feet apart.
I string my first line at one foot off the garden surface between the two sturdy posts. After that, I run a string every two feet. About once a week in the early stages I will take the time to move my bean vines to a next higher string. Once they find the pole, they will cluster.
Since the beans are off the ground, picking is so much easier on your knees and back. I soak their roots with water early in the morning and then wet the leaves at least twice throughout the day depending on the heat.
After the seeds have grown to about four inches, I give them a light pinch of 12-24-12 starter fertiliser. From then on, the roots only get soluble 20-20-20 on a weekly basis.
Green beans have only 45 calories per cup, yet are loaded with many potent nutrients. They are an great source of Vitamins A, C and K. Green beans are a good source of dietary fibre, potassium, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, thiamin, riboflavin, copper, calcium, phosphorous, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and niacin.
Eating these delicious beans helps lower high blood pressure and their fibre may also help prevent colon cancer.
Green beans reduce the severity of diseases such as asthma, arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Green beans are a good source of riboflavin, which has been shown to help reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. These beans are a very good source of iron. Compared to red meat, green beans provide iron for a lot fewer calories and are totally fat-free. Iron is an integral component of haemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism. If you’re menstruating, pregnant or lactating, you need iron!
When purchasing string beans, they should be fairly stiff and should snap sharply, with a spray of juice from the seam. If they are soft or have rusty brown spots, they’ve been around too long and the taste will be 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.
GREEN BEANS AND PASTA
• 1 pound green beans
• about 1/4 pound of pasta (your choice, cooked per directions)
• 1 carrot, sliced into toothpicks
• 1 sweet pepper, seeded and chopped small
• 2 TBS Parmesan cheese
• 2 TBS oil (preferably canola)
• 2 TBS lemon juice
• salt and pepper to taste
Add the green beans during the last three minutes of cooking the pasta. Drain and run under cold water to cool.
Toss the cooled pasta and green beans, Parmesan, oil, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper.
It is wise to make an over-abundance and store in two containers that will get you through an easy weekend.
GREEN BEANS WITH BACON
• 2 pounds green beans, trimmed and washed
• 1/2 pound bacon, chopped small
• 1 small onion, chopped small
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 TBS lemon juice, or juice of half a fresh lemon
• salt and spices to taste
Toss the green beans into a large pot of boiling, salted water and cook about 5 minutes. Drain beans and shock in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again and pat dry.
Cook bacon in a large saute pan until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Spoon off excess bacon grease, leaving 2 tablespoons in the pan.
Add onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the garlic and saute about 1 more minute.
Add green beans and cook until heated through, 5 to 6 minutes more. Return the bacon to the pan, pour in the lemon juice and toss.
Season with salt and spices.
GREEN BEAN STEW
• 2 pounds stew beef, cubed
• 2 pounds green beans, tips removed
• 2 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 cup tomato sauce or ketchup
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 4 cups water
• 1 TBS English (Worcestershire sauce)
• salt and spice to taste
Heat oil in a large pot and add the chopped onions and garlic.
Cook for a few minutes, then add the meat, and continue cooking.
Add everything except green beans and simmer for an hour, stirring often so tomato sauce doesn’t burn.
Add green beans and cook for another 30 minutes.
Serve with rice or pasta.