Sunday, February 22, 2009

Apple #371: Beans -- green beans

This is the sixth entry in a series about Beans.


Green beans (or pole beans) on the vine.
(Photo from Sunset seeds)

Pan-fried green beans with soy sauce and sesame seeds.
(Photo and recipe from Cafe Liz's blog of Kosher recipes)

Categorized as:
  • Technically a fruit. But because they are sold fresh, not dry, most agricultural organizations call them a vegetable.
  • We eat these in the shell. Some say the term for this is "pod bean." Others say it's "shell bean."
  • Not a pulse because they are sold fresh, not dry.
  • Species name: Phaseolus vulgaris. That's right, all those other beans like black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, etc., are Phaseolus vulgaris beans, too. Those are all also pulses. But green beans -- same species -- are not.

General facts:
  • Sometimes also called string beans. Green beans used to have a fibrous, tough thread that ran along the seam of the shell. You could remove it starting at the tip and pulling, and it came away like a string. Hence, "string beans." Now, most green beans now have been bred to have a string that's barely noticeable, if at all.
  • Sometimes also called snap beans. You have to remove the spiky tips, and the easiest way to do that is to snap them off.
  • Also called pole beans. The green bean plant is all viney and it can grow really tall, so people usually have to stake the plants to poles to keep them from falling over. Hence "pole beans."

You can call 'em Pole beans, you can call 'em Green beans, you can call 'em String beans, you can call 'em Snap beans. Just don't call 'em pulses.
(Photo from Jenkins Woodworking blog's Fiberjoy)

  • Sometimes also called runner beans for the way the vines "run" along whatever you lean them against. But there are several other species that are also called runner beans -- scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) is a good example. Scarlet runner beans, which are named for the blossoms which are scarlet, are considered a pulse.
  • Some people put wax beans in the same group as green beans. They say the only thing different about wax beans is the color (they're yellow). Yellow beans, however, they say are a completely different bean. Make sense?
  • Green beans are very high in Vitamin K -- 25% of your daily requirement is in one cup of green beans. Vitamin K helps maintain bone density and helps your blood coagulate. For the women, if you have lots of bleeding each month, getting more vitamin K might help reduce that.
  • You can keep green beans in the refrigerator for several days and they'll still be good. But once you can see the seeds through the shell or they start to get nicked or tough, the nutrition has mostly gone out of them and there's not much point.
  • The best way to cook green beans, in my opinion, is to steam them. Get out your steamer basket, boil about a cup of water in the bottom of a saucepan, snip the tips off the beans, put 'em in your steamer basket, put the basket in the saucepan, cover, and steam. When they're done, they'll have turned a bright green, and when you poke 'em with a fork, they should be mostly tender but still with some crispness.
  • Once cooked, they're good topped with any of the usual suspects -- butter, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, salt & pepper, etc.
  • In my opinion, canned green beans should be banned from the face of the earth. No more oversalted vegetable mush!

Next bean for your consideration: green peas.

Sources, Beans - Fresh (Edamame and Green Beans), Phaseolus vulgaris or the Green Bean
Wise Geek, What are Pole Beans?
The World's Healthiest Foods, Green beans and Green beans in-depth nutrient analysis, Encyclopedia, Snap pea and Snow peas
Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, legumes
USDA Plants Database, Classification Down to Family Fabaceae
FAO, Definition and Classification of Commodities, 4. Pulses and Derived Products
NationMaster, Encyclopedia, Pulses
Wikipedia, Fabaceae and pulses
Edhat Santa Barbara, Veggie of the Week - Shell Beans


  1. Nice page and article. One thing - please double check if your comment is accurate about green beans being "rich" in Vitamin K. What I have read on the USDA list and elsewhere is that they have a low Vitamin K content - approx. 17 - 30 mcg per cup. Important to know for those on blood thinner medication (warfarin) and must LIMIT their Vitamin K intake.

  2. According to my source,, green beans provide 25% of your daily value of vitamin K, or 20.00 mcg per cup. Elsewhere on their site, they said that this amount is a relatively high single-source for vitamin K.


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