Whether you call beans French beans, wax
beans, haricots or green beans, they all belong to a large and varied
History : The bean is a New World
vegetable that had been cultivated for thousands of years by native
people in both the north and south of the continent, which accounts for
its wide diversity.
Varieties : One variety or another is
available all year round and so they are one of the most convenient
fresh green vegetables.
French Beans : This name encompasses
a range of green beans, including the snap bean and bobby bean. They are
mostly fat and fleshy and when fresh, should be firm so that they break
in half with a satisfying snapping sound.
Haricots Verts : These are considered
the best French beans and are delicate and slim in shape. They should be
eaten when very young, no more than 6-7 cm in length.
Thai Beans : These long beans are
similar to French beans and can be prepared and cooked in the same way.
Yellow Wax Beans : This is also a
French bean and has a mild, slightly buttery taste.
Buying and Storing : Whatever
variety, beans should be bright and crisp. Avoid wilted ones, or those
with overly mature pods which feel spongy when lightly squeeze. They do
not keep well, so use as soon as possible after buying or picking.
Preparing : To top and tail the
beans, gather them together in one hand and then slice away the top 5
mm, then do the same at the other end. If necessary, pull off any
Cooking : Plunge beans into rapidly
boiling salted water and cook until soft. When overcooked, beans have a
flabby texture and also lose much of their flavor. Drain and toss them
in butter or serve in a sauce with shallots and bacon. For salads, cook
until just tender and then refresh under cold water. They are excellent
with a garlicky vinaigrette. Serve with carrots or other root vegetables
and savor the contrast in flavors.