Dietribes: The Green Bean Caper

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• A bean by any other name … would still be a bean. Green beans are also known as French Beans (if you're British), string beans or snap beans.

• The Green beans we eat today are not, as many think, a native of North America but rather of Central and South America. Early varieties were especially stringy, with the fiber developing along the seam. Through the years, plant breeders have almost eliminated this trait making the beans, well, snappier!

• Before the 1880s, Green beans had to be cooked for an extremely long time to be considered edible. Then Calvin Keeney, “Father of the Stringless Bean,” developed snap beans for Burpee Company in 1889. But by the 1950s the beans had evolved again - the Blue Lake variety were (and are) "dark green, round, firm, straight, and stringless," and a favorite ever since.

• Beans, beans they're good for your heart, the more you eat them the more … Protein, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Copper you have! Green Beans are also low in Sodium, and very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol.

• Green beans can be grown on a bush (producing a low to the ground, very bountiful crop) or a pole (with less output but with what many consider a better, "nuttier" flavor).

• Other varieties include a purple snap bean! And, in China, you can get Green bean ice cream.

• Green bean casserole is still the most popular of all casseroles, having been invented for an Associated Press article in 1955. Of the hundreds of soup-based recipes created, the Green bean casserole remains king, and apparently is a dish that is rather hard to get wrong.

• The French idiom "C'est la fin des haricots" means "it's the end of the green beans," i.e. it's hopeless.

• Unusually, researchers at the University of Murcia and the University of Complutense in Spain have determined that Green beans not only retain their antioxidant value after boiling, they actually increase their antioxidants after most cooking treatments.

• Finally, a food festival in my (relative) neck of the woods! The annual Green Bean Festival in Blairsville, Georgia includes a green bean pizza eating contest (this is something I could get behind).

• For a long time I was a known and vehement hater of Green beans until I learned you could roast them! But no one's hatred of the Green bean matches my childhood friend Anna, who sat at the table refusing to eat them for a marathon amount of time, an incident known ever since as "The Green Bean Caper."

• What about you, Flossers? How do you like (or loathe) your Green beans? Is Green bean casserole your favorite? Have you ever grown the beans yourself?

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

‘Dietribes’ appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.

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April 18, 2012 - 7:32am
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