Legumes or beans come in many shapes, flavors and colors. They are high in fiber and contain many nutrients.
A bean is a seed pod from a legume. The pods hold one row of seeds. Beans have been used as food for centuries. Many beans are sold fresh or dried or canned. See Beans (Dried, Canned, Frozen)
Green beans or snap beans, and yellow wax beans are sold in the pod and cooked and eaten in the pod. Yellow wax beans have a subtle flavor. Green and yellow wax beans are sold fresh, canned and frozen. Now most green beans are stringless and personal preference determines if the ends are snipped off. French style green beans just mean that the green bean was cut in half lengthwise.
Haricot vert is French for green bean. These are very tiny, slender, straight green beans found seasonally in the produce section. They are soft and tender when cooked.
Flat or pole beans are larger, flatter beans that grow on a tall plant and are often steamed and seasoned with bacon. These are available fresh during the growing season.
Miscellaneous beans that are somewhat more common dried, canned or frozen, but are available seasonally fresh
Edamame is the Japanese name for fresh soybeans. When in season they are picked when not quite mature and sold in the slightly fuzzy green pod. They are legumes that come 4 or 5 beans to a green pod. Edamame can be steamed or cooked and then popped from the pod and eaten as a snack or a vegetable, in soups and main dishes. They are high in protein. Frozen edamame, shelled or unshelled, are also available. Edamame is available seasonally fresh, but is most commonly found frozen in the pod or shelled. The shell is not eaten. Store fresh edamame in the refrigerator and use within a few days.
Fava beans are flat beans inside large pale green pods. The beans are tightly packed inside. They have a sweet flavor and a good texture when fresh and young. Seasonally, fava beans may be found fresh at farmer’s markets or in the produce section. Remove the beans from the pod before cooking. Fresh, tender fava beans need to be just shelled; older beans have a waxy skin around the beans. This needs to be removed. Blanch the beans in boiling water, then plunge in cold water. Pull off the skins. Cook the beans until just tender. A flavorful cream sauce goes well with fava beans. Fava beans can be purchased dried and frozen.
Lima beans are also known as butterbeans and are large, flat green beans used as a side-dish on their own, in succotash or bean dishes. It is a mealy or starchy bean that is removed from the pod before cooking. It is sold fresh in season, canned, frozen and dried.