You might have enjoyed a plateful of green bean casserole along with roast turkey, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes during Thanksgiving; but have you given a thought about how green beans ended up in your meal? Like Thanksgiving, green beans have an American heritage. The plant is native to the Central American country of Peru and migrating Indians introduced it to the inhabitants of North and Central America. Before the European settlers arrived, green beans were already widely cultivated across the continent.
The green bean has indeed come a long way. From being enjoyed by just a handful of Indian tribes, it is now a star ingredient in numerous dishes not just in America but in many parts of the world. There are many reasons why green beans have become so popular, as these fun facts would reveal:
- The green bean is also known as string bean, owing to the string that ran along the side of the pod. Since the string was not palatable, it had to be removed prior to cooking. Fortunately, a “stringless” variety has been developed.
- The use of beans has been so ingrained in the American culture that a few expressions in the English language contain the word “beans.” For example, “spill the beans,” refers to the act of divulging a secret; and “full of beans” is a phrase used to describe a person who is energetic and active.
- Green beans grow very fast. The length of time from planting to harvesting is only 45 to 60 days. Ideally, they should be grown during the spring and summer months, since the plants cannot tolerate cold temperatures.
- Green beans are among the most popular garden plants in the world.
- The green bean pod contains 4 to 6 seeds, which are pale green in color, soft and are shaped like a kidney.
- The most popular ways to prepare green beans are steaming, sautéing or stir-frying, and baking them in casseroles. You can cook beans with herbs like parsley, thyme and chives to brighten their flavor.
- Green beans, when eaten raw, are mildly toxic. Nevertheless, you can still toss raw beans in your salad or eat them fresh from the garden as long as you do so in limited amounts. Since these toxins are more concentrated in the seeds than in the pod, it would be advisable to choose young pods that have small seeds. Cooking will break down the toxins and render the beans safe to eat.
- Nutritionally, green beans provide the body with lots of fiber and protein. They are also very low in fat, while containing antioxidants, Vitamins A and C, folate, magnesium and potassium. The combination of these nutrients helps prevent diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
- Every last Saturday in July, the city of Blairsville, Georgia, honors the green bean with the Green Bean Festival. The celebration includes cooking contests, canning plant tours, beauty pageants and other activities that showcase the vegetable.