Green bean, french bean, haricot vert…whatever you prefer to call them, one thing is for sure nothing beats the crisp sweetness of a freshly picked green bean.
Green beans are currently in season in most parts of Australia and the timing is perfect if you ask me – with fresh salads and simple sides coming into their peak as we head into summer. Nicoise salad anyone?
The climbing variety of green bean also happen to look damn pretty when you grow them as they ascend and wind there way up a frame or pole, and as a kid I was always in charge of snapping the tops and bottoms off the freshly harvested beans before cooking.
I tend to eat beans simply, by lightly steaming and dressing them with olive oil, lemon and mint, but nobody needs a recipe for that, so instead this month I have turned to some of my favourite chefs and bloggers to round up a selection of simple, yet sumptuous green bean inspired recipes that will give you a glimpse into some of the delicious ways the humble green bean can be served…
…BUT first you are going to want to know how to easily grow your own and avoid the disappointment of old, stringy beans that often inhabit the supermarkets, right?
How to grow them?
I love growing beans, I think they are one of the easiest vegetables to grow once they get going and they absolutely save the day when you realise you have hardly any food in the house. A hand full of beans and an egg has been my babes dinner on many occasions. The only problem with growing beans is the pests love them, I’m talking yuck pests, rats and mice, but we’ll get to that later.
I sow all my beans direct, it is time efficient and it allows me to sow a few varieties at once. This year I am sticking with my staple the king purple bean, which I call the magic bean because it grows purple and turns green once you cook it. I am also trying a new bean from The Diggers Club called ‘sex without strings’ because it has no stringy bits and it has a funny name.
Beans are mostly climbers. I have a few metal frames in my garden that I like to grow my beans and peas up. They are removable so after each crop I move them into a new place. This is an important part of maintaining the soil health as legumes have nitrogen fixing nodules on their roots, which means they enrich the soil rather than take from it. Beans aren’t too fussy about the soil they are planted in, if you think it’s good enough, the beans will too. They do like a sunny sheltered possie, since I grow mine up the frame they go up the fence and they are happy with that. Once planted keep them well watered.
Now for the pests, this is who loves them: rats, mice, possums, birds, slugs, earwigs and snails. Although the seeds germinate easily and happily, if you have any of these dudes in your garden they don’t last long. However if you place a cut bottle or collar around each seedling as they emerge they will be discouraged. Keep birds off with little bird scarers, things that move and shimmer in the wind. If it is snails, slugs and/or earwigs that are eating your crop you need to go outside once it is dark and hand pick those little buggers off. It is the only way. As for the possums, they tend to come once your crop is grown and ready for harvest, apart from netting I’m not sure what else you can do. A possum had a field night on my fully grown beautiful purple podded peas, it’s a sad and heartbreaking part of being a gardener.
Finally, good companions for beans are corn, eggplant, cucumber, strawberries and celery. They also like being planted near strong smelling herbs and flowers to deter unhelpful insects. I always grow some beans amongst my corn, they climb up and look really cool. Happy gardening.
Words by Natasha Grogan of The Sage Garden
How to cook them?
Well aside from steaming or munching on them raw, there are a few little ways to turn good ol’ green beans into a stunning side dish of their own.
Here are FIVE of the best green bean recipes from around the interwebs:
1. Lemon Roasted Asparagus + Green Beans with smoked paprika dressing by My Darling Lemon Thyme
2. Tarragon String Bean Salad by My New Roots
3. Sauteed Green Beans with Lemon and Almonds by Wandering Spice.
4. Good Old French Bean Salad by Jamie Oliver
5. Greek-style Braised Green Beans from The Kitchn
All images property of the respective recipe authors.