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Published September 03, 2013, 09:47 AM

It's bean season

Mary Roduner shares tips on how to select beans when buying them at the farmers market or when to pick them from your own garden so you get beans with the best flavor and nutrition.

BROOKINGS, S.D. — This is the season for fresh green beans. Mary Roduner, South Dakota State University Extension consumer horticulture field specialist, shares tips on how to select beans when buying them at the farmers market or when to pick them from your own garden so you get beans with the best flavor and nutrition.

“Depending on variety, mature beans can be any size from 4 inches to 8 inches long with flat or round pods,” Roduner says.

She explains that standard beans like Kentucky Wonder, Provider, Tendergreen, or Cherokee Yellow Wax beans have 6-inch-long medium round pods. Specialty beans like Mountaineer White Half-Runner beans are 4 inches long with medium round pods, while French Filet beans are 6 to 7 inches long with very thin round pods. Roma or Italian style beans have flat pods up to 8 inches long and 1 inch wide.

phases of maturity

“Beans go through three phases as they mature,” she says. “Immature beans are very dark green or green-yellow in yellow varieties, pods are very thin and when cut horizontally, there is no evidence of seed formation.”

When picked immaturely, Roduner says the pods will wilt very quickly and have a thin, weak flavor. Whereas, mature beans have a vibrant medium green or bright yellow color, are firmly round or flat with the beginnings of seed development and snap crisply when broken. The flavor is rich and full with a juicy sweetness.

She adds that beans that are overmature develop large white seeds; fiber in the pod and the pod color becomes pale and dull. Pods will develop large “bumps” caused by the developing seeds. Overmature beans have a starchy taste and many varieties develop stringy fibers that make them difficult or unpleasant to chew.

Harvest often

Roduner suggests picking bean pods routinely to keep the plants producing longer — every two to three days for standard varieties and one to two days for filet beans.

“As soon as the bean pods mature, hormones are released telling the plant to stop producing blooms and pods, causing the pods to dry and seeds to harden,” she says. “Beans can be harvested at the mature stage (large firm seeds) for ‘shelly beans,’ which are shelled or removed from the pods and cooked 4 to 5 minutes until they are soft. These beans have a starchy flavor that is fresher than dried beans. Pods can also be left on the plant to dry completely and be used as dry beans.”

When choosing beans at a farmers market or the grocery store, Roduner says to look for beans that are firm, with no blemishes, and snap sharply when broken. The color should be vibrant with no bumps or bulges from developing seeds.

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