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Feature Article From Harvest to Health
How to select, store, prepare and preserve a variety of farm-fresh produce


Because green beans are high in fiber and water, they are low in calories with one-half cup serving furnishing only 22 calories. Green beans are naturally low in sodium. To take advantage of this, flavor green beans with basil, dill, marjoram, mint, oregano or thyme.

Selecting Green Beans:

High quality green beans are crisp and tender without scars. Well-shaped pods with small seeds are desirable. Length is unimportant. Green beans should feel pliable and velvety, not hard or tough.

Newer varieties of green beans are more tender and do not require as long a cooking period as the older varieties. For best color, flavor, and nutrient retention:

  • Bring a small amount of water to boil - not more than one inch in the bottom of a pan for one pound of green beans.
  • Add green beans and cook uncovered for the first few minutes to let some of the volatile acids escape in the steam. This will preserve the bright green color.
  • Cover and cook until just tender crisp.
  • One pound of crosscut green beans will be ready to serve in 13 to 15 minutes.
  • Overheating and overcooking cause discoloration.

Using and Preserving Green Beans:

Fresh Facts:

  • Green beans can be held in the refrigerator for several days without loss of quality. Store them in a plastic bag to prevent moisture loss and wilting.
  • Wash green beans just before using, not before refrigerator storage.
  • Wash green beans in cold water. Let sand and soil sink to the bottom and lift beans out. Several washes in clean water may be needed.
  • Trim and cut green beans just before using. Vegetables cut or chopped ahead of time lose nutrients more quickly than whole vegetables.
  • To prepare, trim ends and snap or cut into one-inch pieces for cooking or use in salads, or leave green beans whole for dipping.
  • It is usually not necessary to remove strings as most varieties of green beans are now "stringless."
  • Canning, freezing, and drying provide your family with green beans throughout the year.
  • One pound of fresh green beans makes five to six servings.

Freezer Facts:

  • Select young tender pods when the seed is first formed.
  • Before freezing, green beans must be blanched to destroy enzymes that cause flavor and color changes during storage.
  • For freezing, green beans can be cut into one-or two-inch pieces or sliced lengthwise.
  • Package green beans in moisture/vapor proof bags or containers for freezer storage.
  • Green beans can be tray frozen and packaged in large freezer bags. Beans remain loose and can be poured from the container when needed and the package reclosed.
  • Green beans can be stored in the freezer at 0F for about 10 months.
  • Frozen green beans may be substituted for fresh or canned beans in most recipes.

Canned Facts:

  • To help prevent mushiness, select green beans for canning that are a little more mature than those selected for freezing or immediate table use.
  • Water that has been softened may also cause canned green beans to be mushy, just as very hard water may toughen beans.
  • Green beans are a low-acid vegetable and must be hot packed and processed in a pressure canner for safety.

Dried Facts:

  • Green beans should be blanched before drying to stop enzyme activity, which causes "off" flavors and browning during storage.
  • Green beans will be leathery and brittle when moisture is fully removed.
  • Dried green beans can be added directly to soups or stews, but they should be rehydrated, or refreshed, before using in recipes calling for canned green beans like green bean casserole.


Quick and Fresh Ideas
Stir fry green beans in a small amount of vegetable oil for 5 to 8 minutes, until tender crisp. Garnish with slivers of bright red pimiento before serving.

Green beans, fresh from the garden, are delicious served raw in a salad or with this dip:

Mock Sour Cream Dip
Blend until smooth:
1/2 cup cottage cheese, uncreamed
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt

Makes: about 2/3 cup

Harvest Soup
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup carrots, sliced
1/2 cup potatoes, diced
1/2 cup cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup turnips, diced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped*
1/2 cup frozen cut green beans
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 16-ounce can tomatoes

Add all ingredients except tomatoes to boiling water. Cover and boil gently for 15 minutes. Break up large pieces of tomato and add to vegetable mixture. Continue cooking until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf and serve with grated Parmesan cheese.


*1 teaspoon dried parsley may be substituted.


Makes: 4 servings, 1 cup each


Dilled Green Bean Salad
1 pound fresh green beans, 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons fresh dill
4 to 6 green onions, chopped

Steam green beans about 5 minutes, until tender crisp. Combine beans, dill and onions. Whisk together dressing, (recipe below) and pour over bean mixture. Mix well and serve at room temperature.

Makes: 4 servings

For dressing, whisk together:
2 tablespoons olive oil*
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste

*another vegetable oil may be substituted.


Complete directions for freezing green beans can be found in
GH1503 Quality for Keeps: Freezing Vegetables

Directions for drying green beans and recipes for using them can be found in
GH1563 Quality for Keeps: How to Dry Foods at Home and
GH1564 Quality for Keeps: Food Preservation--How to Use Dried Foods

Canning directions for green beans can be found in
GH1454 Quality for Keeps: How to Can Fresh Vegetables


To order any of the "From Harvest to Health" publications or for more preservation information, please refer to the University of Missouri Extension, Human Environmental Sciences Publications - Food, Nutrition and Fitness section.



Last update: Thursday, June 18, 2009


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