Green Beans 101, or how not to ruin your fresh green beans

Green beans are one of the easiest things to grow in your summer garden, but for some reason mine rarely do well. I’ll be honest. I generally am. 🙂

I just don’t pay much attention to them, as my heart is so wound up in my heirloom tomatoes and my herbs and my preternaturally large basil patch (but have you ever smelled licorice basil? It’s worth at least a bushel of green beans, that smell alone) and I pick enough for a “mess of beans” (like my Grandma used to say) with one meal or perhaps two (“ah, the cleverness of me!” I sing, as I serve those first beans and blushingly admit that yes, they are from my garden) and then the next time I look at them, the plants in the garden, that is, the plants have collapsed and the last batch of beans has gotten so big that the plants obviously have decided that Their Work On Earth Is Done. They are slack-jawed and crumpled on the ground. Yellowed. Wrinkled and spent. Defeated by their children. Like a poor woman I see occasionally in the mirror, as a matter of fact. They’ve produced kin, basically, so they’re done.

Hmph. The fickleness of bean plants. They do not give even the most well-intentioned gardener a second chance. Oh, wait. That would make a terrific (or, at least a confusing) tweet, would it not? In contrast, consider your basic tomato plant: say you have a very busy week, with company in the house, and then you get sick on top of it, and you don’t pick tomatoes. For an entire week. Hypothetically speaking. When you finally drag out to the tomato patch, pale and wan, but determined, the plants have been merrily producing one tomato after another, and you can still pick them and eat them, or use them, or can them, or make salsa with them, or whatever. Sure, there will be a few overripe fruits that you’ll need to throw to the chickens, but so what? The plant doesn’t just give up on you and collapse and die, for Pete’s sake.

Not so bean plants.

But. All is not lost in the bean department, because our farmer’s market is rife with beans for sale, and lucky me (moi le chance, for those of you–Amalia–who want to learn a bit of French) that our next-table-vendor-neighbor, Erin, always has bags of green beans at the end of market that she is happy to trade for baguettes. I think I’m the lucky one–I know how much work it takes to keep green bean plants alive, after all–and she makes all the motions of believing that she is the lucky one. So we both leave market smug and feeling blessed.

It’s pretty sweet, actually.

But much easier than growing green beans (and now that I’ve written all that down, I am determined to not fail my bean rows next year. Really. Who can’t grow green beans?? I’m losing all my self respect here!) is the actual cooking of green beans. But so many people do it wrong, and the green beans are not what they could be.

Years ago, in a favorite old cookbook, I learned that the following method is how fine restaurants prepare fresh beans, and I quickly adopted it as my own. Indeed, since I rarely set foot in a fine restaurant, at least I can eat beans the way fine restaurant-goers eat them, and that is a small consolation, after all.

First, though, this is what they look like: bright green, alert, tender-crisp, and absolutely perfect. Now think of the last time you ate green beans: did they look like this? If not, you got gipped, baby.

I made these green beans just a day or two ago, and my family ate an entire pot full of them, exclaiming in delight at their deliciousness. It was like they’d never eaten fresh green beans before, which I know isn’t the case. They were–and are–so delicious, prepared this way!


And this is how to make them: and yes, so easy that an infant (practically) could do it.

  1. Pick and clean your green beans (snapping off the stems).
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add 1 Tb to the water. (The salt sets the green color, but don’t be alarmed: you’re going to rinse it off.)
  3. Bring salted water to a rolling boil, put in fresh beans and cook until just tender-crisp (1 to 2 minutes).
  4. Drain beans in a colander and cool right away under very cold running water.
  5. Drain on paper towels.
  6. Eat in salads, or reheat them thoroughly with butter, herbs, and/or freshly ground salt and pepper, or a dab of coconut oil and herbs.

That’s it! Perfection and ease in one simple dish. Now . . . do you have some green beans that you’d trade for a baguette?

By . . . the . . . way . . . did you know that the gallons of Gold Medal Virgin Coconut Oil (the good stuff!) from Tropical Traditions are on sale through this Thursday, September 4? They are 50% off, and this is when I always stock up on this great stuff! That brings the cost of a gallon down to $59.00, which isn’t bad at all. This organic virgin coconut oil is rich in antioxidants, and I use it in so many recipes now without even thinking. I drink it every day in my bulletproof(ish) coffee, also occasionally in my afternoon iced bulletproof coffee, and for popping popcorn, sauteing vegetables, roasting root veggies, and so much more. You can learn lots more about incorporating this healthy fat right here. It’s a big deal, coconut oil is.

If you click on the link below, it’ll take you straight to the Tropical Traditions website, where you’ll learn even more. Also. If you decide to take advantage of the 50% off sale, and buy something, and if you’re a first-time customer, they’ll send you a free book all about coconut oil (with recipes!) and I’ll earn a coupon for being the link, so to speak. So. . . win-win!

Click here for the “Good Stuff”!

Also. . . I’m linking up this post with the nice folks over at The Prairie Homestead because it’s Monday, and they have a fun event over there today . . . the Barn Hop! Come on over, ya’all!

One more thing. . . I did a second fall gardening seeds giveaway and I wrote about it right here. If you’re putting a fall garden in, or even just a few rows of this or that, do enter . . . it’ll end tomorrow (Tuesday) at midnight though, so don’t put it off!

I’m linking this post up with the nice folks at The Prairie Homestead and the Home Matters linky party. Come check them out and learn something new!


31 thoughts on “Green Beans 101, or how not to ruin your fresh green beans

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Coconut improves everything, doesn’t it, even green beans? I’ve never tried them that way, but it sounds really tasty.

  1. Bethany

    Having been one of the few privileged enough to eat said green beans, I can attest that these are fantastically delicious, and not to be missed! I could eat a huge pot of these green beans, and nothing else, for lunch and be utterly satisfied. Yay for green beans!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Have you tried them Fresh, Alexandria? They’re so much better than when they come from a can. And frozen ones—blech.

  2. Magi

    I, too, have my gardening woes. This has been the weirdest year in North Central Washington. Nothing is ripening. We’re just now getting any green beans at all. So Sad. I love your writing style! I’ll be bookmarking you for future reading!

  3. Chef William Chaney

    Well Mother Nature will just need to think of a way to get you to harvest those beans in a timely manner. She already sends hail storms to get you to harvest the tomatoes. I think you might be over working her, she has other farmers to keep an eye on you know. My wife and I are very fond of all types of beans. Green beans should only visit the hot water long enough to get wet and they are ready to enjoy. Just keep in mind that with green vegetables, the shorter the cooking time allows for less acid buildup and retains more of the green color. Also cook them uncovered so that the acid escapes. Longer cooking and their natural acids leech into the cooking water and destroy the color pigment as well as the nutrients. In the case of green beans, Al Dente is always the wisest choice.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I love it when I learn something new from my blog readers, and of course I always learn new cooking hints from you. I didn’t know that about the acid, but I never cover the boiling green beans (there’s barely time!) so I guess I’m safe. I’ve got some long red Chinese Noodle Beans I’d love to share with you, if you ever make it to NE!

  4. elly stornebrink

    I love green beans Amy. Didn’t know that about adding salt and ONLY cooking for one or two minutes! Will do that next time! I can hardly wait. And licorice basil….yum, I love licorice too! Will you have a recipe for that? 😉 <3

  5. Alana(@RamblinGarden)

    My husband microwaves them in just a tiny bit of water, and will serve them as part of a salad. If served by themselves, no oil. Good beans taste great all on their own. And now, an admission. We are bean failures. This year our beans failed totally – well, except for the Chinese Red Noodle beans, which are doing quite well. Something ate all the beans. We put up fencing (can’t use permanent fencing in the community garden) and replanted, and those failed too. Alas for us, but good for the local farmers, because hubbie and I love green, yellow, and purple beans! (I also understand beans go good with camel meatballs – hee hee.)

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Okay, Alana, now I am going to have to read about the Camel Meatballs . . . hey! I planted Chinese noodle beans, too, and they are doing very well! We can’t eat them fast enough. So I guess I’m not a total bean failure. And–something else we have in common!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      After you cook your beans this way, Katie, you can use them in nearly any recipe–salads or whatnot. They are just good eaten hot out of the pan, too. Yumm.

  6. Gwendolen

    Here’s my Green bean Go To Recipe

    Two large handfuls of green beans, ends snipped but kept long
    One large white onion, cut lengthwise – in other words, not in rings
    Several radishes, sliced
    2 cloves garlic, pressed
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    Caraway seeds
    Chicken stock

    In a steamer, layer onions, green beans and radishes and steam for no longer than 3 minutes. Meanwhile, heat EVOO and toss garlic for 1-2 minutes in a large skillet or better yet, wok. Add beans, salt, pepper and caraway seeds. Splash with stock and serve.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Excellent! Looks really delicious, Gwendolen, and I’m going to try this soon (it’s market day, so I’ll be getting a bag of green beans, hopefully!).

  7. Mari

    What perfect timing, as I am going out to harvest yet another picking from the most miserable looking bean stalks that you have ever seen in your entire life. It is truly an embarrassment! Yet, time and again, I harvest another crop from them. Even in their state of ugliness without hardly a leave in sight, I pick a great bunch of beans every week. How can beans grow without leaves, I wonder?

    I ordered the seeds from Baker Creek, and this is the first year I am growing them. They are a long bean. I think the longest one I picked was just under 3 feet long! Amazing! I love your recipe, which I will try. Also, Chef Williams and Alana and Gwendolen have good ideas for beans. Since I love beans so much, I look for new ways to cook them. So, my bean enthusiasm has just experienced a shot in the arm, thanks to you! If you are looking for something new, try Long Bean Thai #2 Red Seeded next year. It is fun, yet yummy to the tummy. They will be the only bean I grow next year, and I will harvest seeds from them, too. I am excited about beans.

    PS: Waiting for your super salsa recipe!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I’m going to make a note of that–Long Bean Thai #2 Red Seeded (quite a name!) for next year. I have got to admit that I grew Chinese Noodle Beans (also from Baker Creek) this year, too, and they are doing wonderfully! And it amuses me to no end to pick these long beautiful beans–nearly every day! I’m working on the salsa recipe, btw . . . 😉

  8. cookinmom

    Oh my, I had a wonderful harvest in the spring and have planted more that are about 5-6 inches high. That is, Roma beans. Oh…so good and tasty, easy to grow beans. They are a wider bean and have so much flavor. The other bean I grew was Blue Lake beans, which is another favorite of mine because they do so well. It’s raining right now so that means they will grow even faster, yeah! Lost some, I think to a rabbit but replanted just before rain. I have to admit, I have a recipe that my kids LOVVEEE! As they say, everything’s better with bacon…yup, bacon. I just put a little bit fat (or piece of bacon) in the bottom of my pan, just to get it wet. Add onions, garlic and red pepper. Saute and then add beans, turning until they turn pretty green, add S&P. Cover with about 1/4 c. broth and cook, partly covered and cook until they carmelize to aladente’ or soft. Mmm, mmm, good!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Bacon makes everything better, Rose. Yum! Now I’m going to have to write a post including all these wonderful green bean recipes my readers are sharing with me! Yours looks like a winner!

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