The most familiar types of beans are runner beans and French beans. They are often called green beans, although they can be green, yellow or purple (the purple variety turn green when cooked.) They are all very much alike and can often be prepared in the same way.
Beans are among the most valuable and popular of all food plans for gardeners, not only because they are easy to grow and produce large crops, but also because they enrich the soil by adding nitrogen to it, which ohter plans need in order to grow.
Runner and French beans come from both dwarf and climbing plans. Two or three weeks after the first blossoms appear, French beans are ready for harvesting. For the best quality, pick them while they are yong, only about 10cm (4 inches) long, when the tips are soft and the beans are still small inside the pods. Watch your bean plants catrefully, for a bean's harvest-time only lasts a few days. Pick climbing beans just below the stem end, and you will be able to pick another bean from the same spot later in the season. As long as they are picked, climbing beans will continue producing for serveral weeks. Production will stop, however, if the beans are left to mature on the plants. Dwarf beans yield only one harvest, so it does not matter where you pick the pod off the plant.
When dealing with all green beans, remember to watch out for rust, the brownish discolouration which develops when beans have been exposed to moisture for prolonged periods. To avoid this, pick beans on a dry day rather than after a heavy rain, and refrigerate them unwashed. Although they are best when they used as soon as possible, beans picked from your garden will keep refridgerated in a non-porous container for up to 5 days. After that, their quality deteriorates rapidly. (If you are buying green beans, you will notice if they have been picked too old and stored for too long as they will look limp, tough and dry.
To prepare green beans for cooking, just wash them and break or snip off the ends. Cut a thin strip from the outer edge of the bean. Beans can be left whole, cut into diagonal slices, cut into lengthways strips in French style, or broken into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces. It is better to break rather than cut theml it keeps them crisper. They need only brief steaming (3 to 5 minutes) before they are ready to serve. Overcooking results in dried-out, tough to chew, tasteless beans, For variety, add a few sliced mushrooms or flakes almonds to the beans before serving.
Green beans contain calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A and vitamin C. Allow 100-225g (quater to half lb) beans per person.