Beans have long been a staple of many diets throughout the world. Eaten in many forms, bean seeds have been cultivated, savored, cherished and saved for many generations, and every culture has beans which are prized. A highly nutritious source of vitamins and meatless proteins, beans are one of the most familiar, palatable and versatile vegetables.
Fresh Green Beans are fresh, bright and crisp, usually called snap or string beans. The entire young green pod is edible, tender and tasty.
Shell Beans are mature green beans, halfway between the flat fresh green pods with small unformed beans and the dried papery pods with fully formed dried beans.
Dried Beans are beans at their greatest maturity, fully formed and dried for long term storage and future use.
Fresh green beans will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator stored loosely in an open plastic bag.
Fresh shell beans should be shelled fairly soon after harvesting, and stored in the refrigerator. They may be frozen successfully, if you do not plan to eat them immediately. Because of their superior flavor, however, fresh shell beans are best eaten fresh.
Dried shell beans can be stored somewhat indefinitely in a container that is airtight, and in a cool area of the house.
Fresh green beans (snap or string) can be eaten whole or snapped into pieces. The tip should be removed and composted. For beans with strings, the string is removed by snapping the tip and pulling the tip with string along the side of the bean. Fresh tender green beans can be eaten raw or marinated. They require little cooking, usually less than 10 minutes; steamed or prepared in a little water, butter or oil. Herbal seasoning is nice, or add a little lemon juice or vinegar and salt or pepper.
Fresh shell beans should be shelled as soon as possible after harvest. Because they are fresh, cooking time is about half of the time required to cook the same bean that has been fully dried. Covered with water, they are cooked until tender, approximately 15 to 30 minutes. Adding a tablespoon of butter or oil and seasoned as desired, they are simply complete. Fresh shell beans are unique, possessing a superior rich and buttery taste. They are marvelous eaten on their own, and stand well as a meatless main dish. Shell beans are also wonderful added to soups and stews.
Dried Shell Beans can be used over time and as desired. As with dried whole grains, shell beans should be soaked overnight, in water and a tablespoon of whey, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. The overnight sprouting process makes the bean far more digestible and increases nutrient availability and assimilation. Dried beans are versatile and as with fresh shell beans, can be served as a main or side dish, or compliment soups, salads and stews.