Valley Bounty: Green Beans

The food we eat is fundamental in shaping our bodies and our cultures, hence the idea that “we are what we eat.” At the same time, the human history of agriculture has done a great deal to design and refine the foods that are available to us, often more than we realize. Take green beans, which are also called “string beans” because of the long, indigestible fiber that grew naturally along the length of the seed pod. I say “grew” because, in the last decade of the 19th century, a new “stringless” variety was developed through selective breeding and marketed to farmers and gardeners in seed catalogues. Today, “stringless” green beans are the ones grown commercially and available in grocery stores, despite the fact that they didn’t exist a little over a hundred years ago (though the name “string bean” is still widely used in some parts of the country).

I remember eating steamed green beans often as a child, but as an adult I tend to avoid steaming or boiling vegetables where I can. Instead, I prefer to take some fresh local green beans and sauté them in olive oil with some garlic and crushed red pepper flakes — I find the heat compliments the beans’ natural sweetness.

Valley Bounty is written by Brian Snell of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)