The crispy and nutritious green bean, also referred to as string bean, snap bean, and famous in French cooking as “haricot vert” (which means “green bean”), is a versatile vegetable that is incorporated into many cuisines around the world.
There are hundreds of varieties of green beans, all of which are cultivated as the unripe fruit of the bean plant Phaseolus Vulgaris. Green beans themselves are distinguished from “dry beans,” which come from the same plant, by the fact that they are harvested before reaching maturity, and are consumed within their pods.
Cultivars of green beans are grouped into two categories: “bush” beans and “pole” beans. Bush beans grow on their own without support, and “pole” beans require a pole or support to grow. Certain varieties have now been selected and hybridized as both bush and pole beans. Some common cultivars of bush beans include Tendergreen, Provider, Contender and Blue Lake(derived from the original pole bean), while some common cultivars of pole beans include McCaslin, Derby, Blue Lake, and Kentucky Wonder.
There has been a lot of hybridization between green bean species as well, some done to ease industrial harvesting and marketing, and doing away with natural components of green beans such as the “string,” which is fiber.
Green beans are endemic to Peru, where they have been consumed for several thousand years. From there, they spread to indigenous cultures all around South and Central America. Spanish explorers introduced green beans to Europe in the 16th century, where they gained tremendous popularity in Mediterranean cuisine, especially Italian and French.
Green beans are high in several vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients; they are great sources of vitamins A, C, K, iron, chlorophyll, fiber and folic acid, to name but a few. Some suggested benefits of consuming green beans include promoting fertility (due to iron especially), anticancer properties (due to chlorophyll and other antioxidant phytonutrients), and promoting bone health (vitamin K). They are also low in glycemic index and glycemic load and considered a great food for both preventing and managing diabetes.
Green beans gained commercial popularity in the United States in the early 20th century, when techniques to can and process green beans became viable (principally the “Blue Lake” pole bean variety). While the mass-canning of foods such as green beans in the United States removed some of the phytonutrients and phenolic compounds from the whole green bean, and added sodium, it did encourage its increased cultivation (especially in California), and now it is not uncommon to find locally grown green beans around the United States and at neighborhood farmers markets.
Glycemic Index of Green Beans: 32 = low.
Resources and Further Reading
For more information about the history of green beans:
Some health benefits and nutrition content of green bean:
A Review “Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Part 1. Vitamins C and B and phenolic compounds”:
Diets and foods that increase fertility:
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