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Extension > Food > Farm to School > Minnesota Toolkit for School Foodservice > Promoting Food > Promoting Green Beans

Promoting Green Beans

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green beans

Cool Stuff About Green Beans!

Did you know green beans are actually immature dry beans? Green beans taste sweetest when they are young: when they have tiny seeds with thin pods before the seeds have been allowed to mature and dry. The green beans we know today were once called string beans for the “string” that ran on the outer curve of the pod shell. Botanists, however, found a way to remove the string through breeding and in 1894 the first successful stringless bean plant was cultivated. You can also find green beans or "snap" beans that are yellow, red or purple.

Green beans have been cultivated in Mexico for over 7,000 years. On average Minnesota has produced about 6,000 acres of green beans for processing (canning) and 500 acres for the “fresh market” (farmer’s markets, grocery stores) each year. Green beans are a warm weather crop but they require a short growing season. You can plant green bean seeds in your garden (or a pot of soil) and have tasty green beans for dinner within 60 days. There are two major types of green beans: bush beans and pole beans. Bush beans can stand alone without support. Pole beans climb a support (like a fence) and are easy to pick. Green beans are loaded with nutrients like vitamin K, vitamin C, manganese, vitamin A, dietary fiber, potassium, folate, and iron.

You can pick some up with your family at the local farmer’s market or FARM NAME. Try using the recipe in this month’s newsletter. Today at lunch, you will have the opportunity to sample green beans in FOOD ITEM from FARM NAME/CITY.

green beans

In [MONTH] your child tried [FOOD ITEM] with locally grown green beans from [FARM NAME] in [CITY]. Prepare this delicious recipe with your family and ask your child(ren) if they can answer the following trivia questions.

  1. We eat green beans when they are immature with tiny seeds and thin pods. They are tasty and sweet when they are young. If you let the seeds in the green bean pod become mature and dry, what would we call them?
  2. There are two major types of green beans: bush beans and _____ beans. What is the difference between the two types of green beans?
  3. Green beans were first cultivated in Mexico over 7,000 years ago. They are an easy fresh snack with dip or can be put into your favorite soup. Name two of the nutrients packed in green beans.

Trivia Answers

  1. Dry beans. With dry beans, you eat the starchy seeds, not the pod. Green beans (which can also be yellow, red and purple) have also been called string beans and snap beans. On average Minnesota has produced about 6,000 acres of green beans for processing (canning) and 500 acres for the “fresh market” (farmer’s markets, grocery stores) each year.
  2. Bush beans and pole beans. Bush beans can stand alone and pole beans need extra support with a fence or trellis.
  3. Green beans are an loaded with nutrients like vitamin K, vitamin C, manganese, vitamin A, dietary fiber, potassium, folate, and iron. One cup of green beans has 25% of the vitamin K you need each day. Vitamin K helps clot your blood normally and keeps your bones strong. Vitamin C can help you fight infection and vitamin A can help maintain vision health.

MS Word version of Newsletter

green beans

History and Origin

  • Green or common beans grew wild in Central and South America and have been used by people in these areas since 5000-6000 BC.
  • The scientific name for green beans is Phaseolus vulgaris. Green beans and other beans, such as kidney beans, navy beans and black beans are all known scientifically as Phaseolus vulgaris. They are all referred to as "common beans."
  • From origins in Peru and Central America, beans were spread throughout the Americas by Native people.
  • Beans were introduced into Europe around the 16h century by Spanish explorers returning from their voyages to the Americas, and subsequently were spread through many other parts of the world by Spanish and Portuguese traders.
  • Today, the largest commercial producers of fresh green beans include the United States, China, Japan, Spain, Italy and France.

Nutrition

  • Green beans, while quite low in calories (less than 45 calories in a whole cup), are loaded with nutrients. Green beans are an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C, manganese, vitamin A, dietary fiber, potassium, folate, and iron.
  • Green beans are a good source of magnesium, thiamin, riboflavin, copper, calcium, phosphorus, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and niacin.
  • Compared to dry or shell beans, green beans provide less starch and protein, and more Vitamin A, Vitamin C and calcium.

Did you know…?

  • Green beans are in the same family as dry beans, such as pinto beans, black beans and kidney beans.
  • Green beans are actually the pods and seeds of immature dry beans, and their pods can be flat, oval, or rounded. Varieties called "green" beans are bred to have a juicier, more tender pod than the types used for dry beans.
  • "Green" beans can actually be green, yellow, purple, or speckled in these colors.
  • When first cultivated, the green beans had a “string” that ran on the outer curve of the pod shell. This led to the nickname “string beans.” Botanists, however, found a way to remove the string through breeding and in 1894 the first successful stringless bean plant was cultivated. Today, nearly all varieties of edible pod beans are grown without strings.
  • Green beans are nitrogen fixers, which means they have the ability to draw nitrogen from the air and return it to the soil. Because of this, farmers often plant beans and other related plants in the legume family in their crop rotations to replenish the soil.
  • “Haricots verts” are very thin, crisp and tender green beans; also known as French filet beans.
  • Green beans may grow as bush beans or pole beans. Pole beans are climbers; they need a trellis or pole to hold up the plant.
  • The saying “Full of beans” means you’ve got lots of energy.
  • The saying “Spill the beans” means to tell the truth.
  • Although green beans vary in size they average about four inches in length.

How to Eat Green Beans

  • Young and firm beans are great eaten raw.
  • Steam, boil, stir-fry or microwave beans until cooked but still crisp to maintain nutrients, about 3-5 minutes.
  • If serving cold, plunge beans into iced water after cooking to retain green color.
  • Green beans are great in summer salads and side dishes.
  • Serve raw green beans with your favorite dips.
  • Add green beans to your favorite casseroles and soups.

The above information was compiled from:

www.ipmcenters.org/cropprofiles/docs/MNsnapbeans.pdf
www.harvestofthemonth.com
www.thefresh1.com/beans.asp

health.learninginfo.org/green_beans.htm

www.whfoods.com

green beans

Tasting Poster (152 K PDF)

3-Column Poster (1.2 MB PDF)

Index Card (187 K PDF)

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baskets of green beans Baskets of Green Beans photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
green and yellow beans Green & Yellow Beans photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
pile of green beans Pile of Green Beans photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
purple and yellow beans Purple & Yellow Beans photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
purple beans Purple Beans photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
speckled beans Speckled Purple & Yellow Beans photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
sunshine on green beans Sunshine on Green Beans photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
bean plant Bean Plant photo from U.S. Dry Bean Council
green beans
  • Growing a Runner Bean Simple classroom activity involving damp blotting paper and bean seeds.
  • Jack and the Beanstalk Simple classroom projects for elementary children, focused on beans and using the familiar fairy tale.
  • The String Beans Music trio based in Nebraska; fun and educational song lyrics aimed at elementary-age children.
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