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You might know green beans as snap beans and string beans, but they're all basically the same. The beans are small pods filled with seeds.

Since they're harvested when young, a green bean's pods stay tender, making them edible along with the seeds. Although different varieties range in size, they average around 10cm in length.

Green beans come in "pole" and "bush" varieties. Pole beans grow tall and are usually supported by a fence so they don't fall over. Bush beans grow into small stubby plants that don't need support.

Even though they're called "green" beans, they come in yellow and purple, too; the "wax bean" is a pale yellow variety.

"Haricots verts" are French green beans that are very thin and tender. You'll typically find them in restaurants served alongside chicken or steak.

Green beans are available all year round, though you can find them fresh at most local farmers markets from now.

A cup of raw green beans contains 34 calories and 2g of sugar and is full of fibre - 15 per cent of your daily needs.

It's also an excellent source of vitamin K and vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A, folate and manganese. Covering six per cent of your daily needs, they even have a decent amount of iron when compared with other veggies.

If you're going to leave green beans whole, choose ones that are of equal size for even cooking. Rinse beans under cold water and trim (or snap) off the stem end with your fingers or knife.

Overcooking green beans makes them soggy, so just cook them until they're tender and vibrant green.

In a rush? Prepare your beans ahead of time by blanching them - cook them in a pot of boiling water and then plunge the batch in ice water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled, drain and refrigerate them overnight in an airtight container.

Shopping tip: Look for loose green beans, which will allow you to pick the freshest ones. Choose slender beans that are brightly coloured, crisp and free of blemishes and brown specs.

Store them in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped in a plastic bag, for up to five days.

The West Australian

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