Thin green finger-length beans that are also called French beans or haricots verts. They also include the fatter snap or bobby bean, and the yellow wax bean. Confusingly, green beans are not always green; some varieties you might find at farmers' markets and farm shops are yellow or purple – but all are delicious.
Green beans should have a bright, strong colour, with crisp pods with a satin-like sheen. They should not look wilted, discoloured or brown. They are best eaten when young and tender. To tell how fresh they are, snap one in half. The ‘snap’ should be clean and clear. Don’t buy them if the ‘snap’ is lacking, and if the insides do not seem juicy when you break them open. Home-grown green beans are in season from June to September.
Store in a paper bag in the salad drawer of the fridge and use within 3-4 days. To freeze beans, wash them well then top and tail. Blanch, plunge into iced water, drain well and pack in polythene bags. Cook them from frozen in boiling, salted water.
Top and tail and either boil briefly, steam or stir-fry. Toss in butter and serve as an accompaniment to meat and fish dishes. Add to salad Niçoise or cut into short lengths for vegetable soups. As the home-grown season advances, the pods may become more fibrous, so they are best used in curries and vegetable stews.
Article by Clarissa Hyman