The snap bean, better known as the green bean, has been a fan favorite for many years. There are so many different ways to cook and enjoy this nutritious vegetable, whether you fry them, bake them, or steam them to perfection. The snap bean is a warmer season crop that was formerly known as a string bean due to the long string that runs up the back of the vegetable. Many people wonder what the main difference is between snap beans, green beans, and string beans. The answer is absolutely nothing! They are the same, and they are typically categorized into two different types based off of how they grow. The pole and bush version are characterized by either growing up a pole to make pole beans, or in a bush to create bush beans. There are so many fun and interesting facts to dive into that categorizes the snap bean into an important, nutrient dense food.
Snap Beans Fun Facts
- “The green bean is an herbaceous plant that belongs to legume family (Fabiaceae).
- There are more than 130 varieties of green bean that differ in taste and in the color and size of pods.
- Green beans require direct sun, well-drained soil, and a temperature of 21 to 27 degrees Celsius for successful growth.
- Green beans grow in the form of bush that can reach 8 to 20 inches in height or in the form of 7 to 10 feet long vine.
- The green bean propagates via seed. It takes 45 to 60 days from planting to harvesting.”
- “Green beans are among the most popular garden plants in the world.
- 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.”
Snap Beans History/Mythology
These popular beans thrive in clay like soil and warm climate conditions and are often seen as one of the favorite beans to consume today. How did it become this way, and what is the history behind these fascinating, yet delicious, beans we sometimes take for granted? The basic snap bean has been cultivated in Mexico alone for the last 7,000 years though they originated in Peru and different parts of South America.
According to research,
“green beans are often called string beans because, years ago, a fibrous string (or vascular tissue) ran along the seam of the bean pod and was noticeable when the beans were snapped. The snapping noise is the reason for its other nickname, the “snap” bean. Through plant breeding techniques, modern varieties usually do not have this string.”
Back when the beans originated, they were discovered by migrating Indian tribes who made a point to add them into their daily diets for optimal protein and nutrients. The Indians would plant both corn and beans together, because the bean sprouts would grow up the corn stalks creating an optimal harvesting environment. Then, the Spanish explorers from the New World brought the beans over to Europe in the 16th century for others to enjoy. This started a harvesting revolution of snap beans throughout the nations, and different countries embraced them in different ways.
The earliest form of the New World bean was said to be in 1543, and according to Clifford Wright,
“There are four major cultivated species: P. vulgaris, P. coccineus (scarlet runner bean), P. lunatus (lima or sieva bean), P. acutifolius var. latifolius (tepary bean). A fifth species, P. polyanthus, is cultivated in the New World, but it is not found in Mediterranean cultivation. There are today many cultivars of green beans, more than 500, with variations in pod, texture, or seed color, for example the yellow wax beans.”
Because of their overall popularity, green beans are produced in easily exportable locations such as Mexico, United States, Asia, Canada, South America, and parts of Europe. A large majority, however, comes from Guatemala and Mexico when being imported into the United States. Snap beans being grown in the United States come generally from southern, western, or even southeastern states due to the climate.
Snap Beans Nutritional Facts
The intense green color the snap bean provides gives a small insight to its in depth nutrient profile. Studies have found lutein, beta-carotene, violaxanthin, and neoxanthin, which are all well-known carotenoids. The reason why these carotenoids are not as visible to the naked eye is simply because of the overarching amount of chlorophyll which makes the bean so “green.” They are also low in calories, which is good for heart health and your waistline with 1 cup amounting to 44 calories overall. Lastly, the different vitamins and minerals found inside a green pod is rather impressive, with vitamin A, D, and B. It also contains calcium, so bone health is also a benefit (more on that below).
Snap Beans Health Benefits
Planting and growing your own green beans if you have access to a garden might be a useful task, as they pack in many benefits. You simply “make” snap green beans by planting them and taking care of your harvest as they grow into actual food sources. This popular bean has a variety of health benefits due to their fresh and crisp nature. From reducing your chances of colon cancer and your risk of diabetes, to improving your regulation on diabetes, this bean is something to invest in. Snap beans have also been said to help reduce the risk of birth defects in pregnant women, boost your immunity, and eliminate harmful free radicals that are in the body.
The health benefits do not stop there however, as this bean is known for increasing your overall eye health due to the presence of the carotenoids. Because of their folic acid content snap beans are a great prenatal food as getting enough folic acid is vital to the development of a healthy baby. They also help with any gastrointestinal issues you may have because of the fiber found in their pods. Among all of the great benefits, there are some things to watch out for regarding overeating snap beans. Phytic acid is found in these beans, and when over consumed it can attack important minerals in the body like zinc and calcium, which stops them from proper absorption.
Snap Bean Varieties
In comparison, the pole and the bush beans’ maturity timelines are much different even though they yield the same result. The pole beans mature at a much slower rate than the bush beans, so if you are growing your own be mindful of this small but true fact. Because the bush beans are closer to the ground, there is a quicker maturation rate than when the beans have to physically be supported and climb a pole toward maturation. According to the national gardening association, “There are two basic types of snap beans: green-podded and yellow-podded or wax beans, and they come in different shapes: long, short, flat, round, broad.”
Snap Bean Uses
Of course the uses for snap beans primarily fall in the category of eating them and reaping their nutritional and health benefits! You can cook snap beans a variety of ways, which later will translate into a multitude of delicious dishes to enjoy. They can be grilled, fried, sautéed, baked, or steamed to perfection and will still harbor an amazing flavor and nutritional profile. Whether you are growing your snap beans from seed and gardening your way to the kitchen or simply picking some up at the grocery store, there are a multitude of snap bean recipes to enjoy! Each bean grows to be a few inches long and can be frozen to be enjoyed later on if you see the need. Take a look at this simple yet mouth-watering recipe to enjoy!
The Best Green Beans Ever Recipe
By: Ree Drummond
Total Cook and Prep time: 40 minutes
- 1 pound green beans
- 2 tablespoons bacon grease (can substitute 2 tablespoons butter)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 cup chicken broth, plus more if needed
- 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt (can substitute regular table salt, use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon)
- Ground black pepper
“Snap the stem ends of the green beans, or cut them off in a big bunch with a knife if you’d prefer. Melt the bacon grease in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and onions and cook for a minute. Then add the green beans and cook until the beans turn bright green, about a minute. Add the chicken broth, chopped red pepper, salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat to low and cover the skillet with a lid, leaving the lid cracked to allow steam to escape. Cook until the liquid evaporates and the beans are fairly soft, yet still a bit crisp, 20 to 30 minutes. You can add more chicken broth during the cooking process, but don’t be afraid to let it all cook away so the onions and peppers can start to caramelize.”