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How to Choose and Buy Fresh Beans

Selection of Fresh Beans:

 

As with so many other vegetables, the best way to enjoy fresh beans is to pick them from the garden immediately before they are cooked. Fresh picked beans are so sweet that they are almost an entirely different vegetable from the supermarket specimens. If you are not lucky enough to grow your own, and there is no farm stand nearby, it might be better to but frozen beans than fresh” ones that have languished too long between vine and cooking pot.


And I would strongly suggest never buying pre-shelled beans unless they are frozen. It has been my experience that packaged, pre-shelled beans are tough and dry – and no amount of simmering will restore their texture and taste. In fact, if at all possible, shell beans should be left in the pod until just before cooking.


Green beans, wax beans, haricots verts, Chinese yard-long beans, and Italian flat beans should be as moist and snappy as possible. They should have a clear, bright green (or yellow if choosing wax beans) color, without any brown or shriveled spots. If the stem is still attached, it should also be green and not dark and dry. Two pounds of fresh green beans will serve six to eight.


Fresh shell beans such as limas, black-eyed peas, pigeon peas, purple beans, fava beans, and French flageolets (a small green kidney-shaped bean) should also be as plump and crisp as possible. Choose only those that are bright colored, also with no brown spots or hint of mold. If the shells do not poop open easily, they are probably old and will not be tender and sweet. If less-than-fresh beans are the only kind you can find, it is better to choose something else or to but the frozen variety.


Most shell beans have a lot of waste, and it will require at least 4 pounds in the shell to produce enough for six servings. Fava beans are much heavier, however, and you will need 7 to 8 pounds of whole beans to serve six.
 

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