As with most summer vegetables, modern agricultural and transportation practices have given us a year-round supply of green beans. But just like corn and tomatoes, when the local season comes around and beans don’t have to travel as far, you will experience some of the best-tasting product of the year. Also, the late summer is traditionally the time we see the greatest variety of green beans, from purple and yellow wax to the flat Italian Romano bean.
Most folks don’t know that green beans are very sensitive vegetables. Product that gets too wet or cold or is exposed to excessive air flow can dramatically affect the eating quality. Because of this, it is best to use green beans within a few days of buying them. The most common variety of green bean produced in the U.S. is the Blue Lake — a round, medium-sized green bean that will run approximately 3 to 5 inches in length. When selecting, look for dry, bright green beans that are a consistent size and shape (so they will cook evenly). Green beans should also have some snap — rubbery beans that will bend but not snap should be avoided.
Fresh summer green beans make an excellent addition to salads at a time when lettuce quality is not at its best because of warm weather. Just steam or boil until tender, cool, and combine with your favorite salad fixings. My current favorite combination is green beans, cherry tomatoes, walnuts, and blue cheese, lightly tossed in a vinaigrette. The sweet crispiness of summertime green beans will complement a wide range of dishes. For some tasty examples, be sure to check out the slideshow.
— James Parker, global associate perishables coordinator for Whole Foods Market