String beans are the worst item to harvest on the farm. It's mind-bending, back-breaking work. But every year we do it again and again to get these sweet, crisp beans out of the earth and onto our plates. I think that means they merit a bit of attention. Wouldn't you agree?

Color, shape, and size

Fresh summer beans are not always green.IMG_7664

Yes, there are green beans. There are also beans in shades of yellow (sometimes called wax beans) and even purple, my personal favorite.IMG_2099

I call the purple ones "magic beans," particularly when trying to get kids excited about them. Break open the dark shell and the inside -- surprise! -- is bright green. Better yet, when you blanch them in hot water, you can watch them all turn green in just a matter of minutes.

Beans also vary (a bit) in size. Some varieties -- like French haricots vert -- are small and slender. Traditional green beans can get huge, but are best when eaten fairly small. Bigger beans can get tough and dry.

how to eat 'em

Raw or blanched

IMG_2178Thin, small beans are delicious raw, right off the vine. They can be used with other vegetables in a raw crudites platter.

Bigger beans should be blanched (cooked very briefly in hot water, then transferred to cold water to stop cooking immediately) before eating. But blanching, then refrigerating them will get you a decent like-raw bean for a crudites platter.

salads

String beans make excellent salads. Blanched beans can be cut into 1-inch strips and added to any salad for a sweet burst. Like carrots, beans can be the base of their own lettuce-free salads, too.

Growing up, my mom made an excellent string bean salad (right). IMG_8199Here's how:

  1. Blanch string beans and cut into 2-inch pieces
  2. Add thinly sliced charred red pepper
    1. Char red pepper over the burner (rotating the pepper with tongs until the outside skin is mostly blackened)
    2. Put the pepper in a paper bag and close for a few minutes
    3. Open the bag and slide off burned skin
    4. Core, seed, and slice the pepper as you would a fresh one
  3. Add thinly sliced red onion
    1. If you're not a fan of raw onion, try laying slices in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes before adding them to the salad -- this will calm their edge
  4. Add chopped fresh parsley
  5. Add your favorite salad dressing
    1. My mom would make one with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and Dijon mustard
  6. Enjoy!

Want other string bean salad ideas? Or recipes with exact measurements? Check out these string bean salads:

stir fry and Saute

String beans also work well sauteed on the stove top. Unlike the above recipes, you'll need to cut them up before cooking, because you don't want to be picking through your stir fry at the end.

Cut string beans are a great addition to The Lizzie Special (AKA my Easy Curry). They can be added in step 2, with other veg that need a bit of time to cook.

Garlic string beans is one of my go-to bean recipes. You don't even have to cut up the beans (besides removing the stems) for this dish. Here's how:IMG_2104

  1. Heat coconut oil and a bit of toasted sesame oil in a frying pan at a medium heat
  2. Add diced garlic and stir around, sauteing briefly
  3. Add whole (with stem removed) string beans and stir to coat in oil
    1. At this point you can add anything else you'd like in the mix, too. I added some edamame and kale to the beans in the picture at right.
  4. Continue cooking, stirring as-needed to avoid burning and cook beans evenly
  5. Add a splash of soy sauce (this will deglaze the pan and bring any garlic bits that have started to burn back up into the mix)
  6. When beans are tender, but still have a crunch, remove from heat
  7. Add a bit more sesame oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve over rice

Want more stove-top string bean ideas? Check out these recipes:

IMG_2111Whatever you're doing with them, don't take these beans for granted. Thank a farmer who bent over to pick them, and honor that work by making them into something delicious this season!