How to Use your Abundant Green Bean Harvest
If you’re going for an abundant harvest, green beans need to be near the top of your list of vegetables to have in your backyard garden. They are easy to grow, yield abundantly, and have very little pest pressure in my region. Remember to pick them when they are young and tender and pick them often, This will give you the highest quality of bean along with the most abundant harvest. In terms of yield, there probably isn’t an easier vegetable to grow so much that you don’t know what to do with them all. Here are some ideas.
1. Steam, salt, and Butter
This is probably no revelation to anyone, but they’re so good this way and our family eats them this way so often I felt I had to at least mention it. There is absolutely, positively, no possible way to beat beans that are fresh from the garden for this preparation.
I usually steam the beans for about 6 minutes. They are then buttered and salted with kosher salt to taste and served immediately. Young, tender, fresh beans like this are hard to beat. I sometimes boil them too but apparently steaming them retains more of the vitamins so most of the time I steam.d
2. Freeze The Abundant Green Bean
Probably the easiest way of preserving your harvest for future use. I remove all the stems, cut them if I want them cut, then blanch them for about 2 minutes. Blanching is simply putting them in boiling water for a short period of time, not enough to really cook them. Don’t skip this step. There are enzymes that contribute to the decay of the green beans that will survive the freezing process. Blanching kills these enzymes, so your green beans will keep much better blanched.
After blanching I drain them and let them dry a little, then I put them on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer. This is the same kind of idea as what many people do with strawberries: you freeze them on a cookie sheet first so that when you put them in a freezer bag they do not freeze together in a solid clump.
Once they are frozen I take a spatula to scrape the beans off the cookie sheet, put them in a freezer bag, date them, and into the freezer they go. These are perfect for wintertime soups and stews or casseroles. You can make them boiled, salted, and buttered too but they are not as good as they are fresh.
3. Steam, then fry with something delicious
There are a million variations on this basic theme. You are basically going to steam the beans until they are almost ready, 5-6 minutes. I little butter or oil in the pan and you lightly fry them up. You can do this with just the green beans and a little salt, but oftentimes another ingredient or two is added in during the frying process. This is most often garlic, onions, mushrooms, or bacan, or some combination of them.
Adding bacon reminds me of my Dad’s cooking. He didn’t do it all that often, but when he did prepare some vegetables there was usually some bacon involved somewhere.
Read More: Best 07 Vegetables Selection for Garden Growers
4. Hit them with some Lacto-fermentation
Humans have been fermenting food since before the start of recorded history as a way of enriching their food with probiotics, increasing its vitamin content, creating beneficial enzymes, preserving food, and making it more easily digestible.
If you’ve ever made sauerkraut, it is the same procedure with green beans or any other vegetable you want to ferment. Lacto-fermentation is a particularly useful way of preserving your garden harvest because in the process you are making your vegetables more nutritious than they are raw.
This time tested method of preserving vegetables is pretty straightforward. You basically need to submerge whatever raw vegetable you are doing in saltwater brine. I usually use a food-grade bucket I have for making wine. I place a plate on top of the vegetables in the saltwater, weighted down with a freezer bag full of water or a 2-liter pop bottle to keep all the vegetables submerged.
Fermentation is really a pretty cool and almost magical process in some ways. The lactobacillus bacteria is salt-tolerant and the saltiness of the brine inhibits its competition from growing. As the lactobacillus slowly digest the sugar in the veggies they create lactic acid, which further creates a hostile environment for any competing bacteria or fungi, so your veggies can keep for long periods of time like this, depending on how salty your brine is and the temperature you keep your fermented produce at.
Warm temperatures will increase the rate of fermentation and your veggies will break down faster. Cooler temperatures slow everything down, as does a saltier brine. Your green beans can keep well for months in the fridge once they have fermented for a week or 2 in warmer temperatures, depending on how you like them, they get tangier the longer you let them ferment.
Be careful not to put them in a tightly sealed glass jar. You can slow down the fermentation process in the fridge but you cannot stop it completely, so your fermenting veggies will continue to slowly release co2 into the jar. In a tightly sealed jar the pressure will build up and it could explode.
I let my veggies ferment until they are quite tangy but still crunchy. The fermentation process gradually breaks down tough fibrous veggies, making them easier to digest, but if you let the process go too far your veggies will start getting mushy.
There’s not much in the way of fermented food available in the marketplace because of regulations requiring that food be pasteurized, which kills all of the beneficial bacteria created by the fermentation process.