Green beans are prolific at the moment, so I need to think of different ways to use them up. My favourite – just crunching them straight off the bush while I garden – is not helping reduce the produce much. To be honest, the beans are a bit of a surprise. I actually only planted them in the brand new bed I made earlier this year to fix some nitrogen, work the soil and provide a green mulch – using up all the random old seeds I had left in various packets. In fact, there is hardly any soil in the bed – remember my layers of newspaper, compost, straw and weeds as I built the bed on the Spring Equinox? So I have been thrilled that they have grown so well and are now providing a bonus of masses of food.
Did you know that the leaves of beans are also edible? Just treat as you would spinach or other leafy greens. Another plant with multiple uses – I do love them.
My very favourite green bean recipe is one I call Greek Green Bean Stew – I’m not sure that is actually is Greek, but I learned to make it and eat it in Greece (from the abundance harvest on Poros one Summer). It is the simplest thing in the world. Fry some slices of garlic in olive oil, add the green beans – I like to keep them whole, but you could chop them up if you are a neat eater. Then a can of tomotoes (or fresh ones chopped up if you have them), a can of water and some Rigani or dried oregano. Once cooked and reduced, a handful of fresh oregano or marjoram is a fabulous addition. I am fortunate that a friend, Char, visits Greece quite regularly and always brings me a bag of Rigani – dried wild oregano for which the Mediterranean is famous. Mop up with fresh bread.
Another favourite is Green bean and chickpea salad – Soak and cook chickpeas in lots of water. If you can find some of the small brown ones, (Asian stores) they are very attractive mixed with the paler ones. Or just open some cans! Drain, Sprinkle with ground dhania/jeera, fresh crushed garlic and olive oil while in the hot pan. Steam whole greenbeans until JUST tender (a few minutes only). While warm, toss beans and chickpeas with whole and snipped up sundried tomatoes (easier to cut up with scissors), lots of chopped parsley and lots of fresh mint. Masses actually. Squeeze over lemon juice and the zest, olive oil, salt and pepper. Some dark olives make this more luxurious and look lovely too.
I am always partial to really simple ways of eating things – Provencal Green Beans. Fry some garlic and rough breadcrumbs from an old loaf, in olive oil. Toss in the beans and fry for 4-5 minutes. Best to use small, young beans for this. Fantastic! This fried breadcrumb idea is known as “poor man’s parmesan” and used a lot in Italy on pasta and other dishes instead of cheese. It really is fabulous. You could steam the beans if you prefer and serve with the breadcrumbs too.
Last night we made Green Bean Curry, perfect on a hot Summer evening. Toast the spices of your choice (cumin, coriander, cardamom are always included in mine). Then fry garlic, potatoes, green beans and red split lentils in the spices for a while before adding enough water to cover. The red lentils make a nice thick sauce. We served with whole grain basmati rice and a dollop of yoghurt. Scrumptious.
If you haven’t got any green beans in your garden, I’d say head for the market and stock up.