Runner beans, also known as string beans, are long, flat green beans with a rough skin. They can be chopped and added to rice dishes, sprinkled with sesame seeds as a side dish for Asian-style recipes, or served as a traditional British 'veg' with roast dinner.
These beans are best eaten when young and tender, as they can become tough towards the end of the season. Look for beans with fresh green skins and a firm texture with no brown spots. They should not be too long or stringy. Fresh beans will ‘snap’ easily and look moist and juicy inside. Home-grown runner beans are in season from July to early October.
Store in a paper bag in the vegetable tray at the bottom of the fridge and use within a day or two. To freeze, wash the beans well and slice. Blanch, then drain and plunge into iced water; drain again and pack into polythene bags. When you come to use them, cook them from frozen in boiling, salted water.
Top and tail the beans and pull away any strings (these are usually found on older varieties of beans, although stringless varieties are available). Slice runner beans at an angle or use a bean slicer to cut them into thin strips. Serve steamed or boiled and tossed with butter, or add them to minestrone or vegetable stews.
Article by Clarissa Hyman