Who would have believed that?
Like tomato or zucchini, the green bean is… a fruit! Coming from the Fabaceae family, such as broad beans or chickpeas, it includes 222 varieties listed in the official French catalogue. Three large families stand out, specifies Arnaud Darsonval, co-director of the Ferme de Sainte Marthe: “Net beans, recognizable by their long and thin stems, snap peas, flatter with slightly larger grains, and finally, shelled beans, of which only the grains are eaten. The latter have recently seen a resurgence of interest.”
France is the first European producer of green beans and supplies about 350,000 tons a year, 310,000 of which are destined for transformation: freezing, canning, etc. They are grown mainly in the Pays de la Loire, in New Aquitaine and in the Centre-Val de Loire. Every Frenchman eats an average of 800g a year, making it one of our favorite green vegetables.
Come from afar…
Originally from South America and Central America, the green bean appeared in Europe in the 16th century, upon the return of the conquerors. Initially, mainly grains are consumed. In Italy, Pope Clement VII had it grown in his gardens and certainly encouraged the development of new varieties. Catherine de’ Medici was the first to try beans in the form of fresh, tender pods.
Arriving in France, the wife of King Henry II introduced this green vegetable to court, which quickly became a staple of French cuisine. In the 1960s, chef Paul Bocuse rediscovered all its delicacy. He offers it, freshly caught and very raw, in a crunchy salad.
harvested on time
Flavors vary depending on harvesting methods and when the grain is picked, as Arnaud Darsonval explains: “The earlier it is harvested, meaning before maturity, the sweeter it is, which is what chefs generally look for. On the contrary, if it is harvested late, the beans will develop, the membrane will become stringy.”
Christophe David, producer of the Interfel network in Ballon-Saint-Mars in Sarthe, adds: “If the time between harvest and sale is too long, the beans will contain more fiber, hence the interest in buying them extra fresh, if possible in a short circuit.” Irrigation also plays an important role: “If it is controlled, the aromas are concentrated”, specifies Arnaud Darsonval.
Play with the flavors
“Nothing is more delicious than biting into a bean that you have just picked in the garden,” trusts Christophe Hay, chef of the Fleur de Loire, in Blois, who has a garden of more than one hectare. The kitchen plays a fundamental role: “Cook them for five minutes in boiling salted water. and avoid putting a lid, otherwise the gas released by the pods stays in the pot and oxidizes the product. As a result, the beans are khaki in color and much less flavorful. Once cooked, submerge them in a bowl of ice to stop the cooking and preserve this beautiful neon green hue.
To serve you: “Nothing better than mixing varieties to play with flavors, textures, colors… I am a lover of multi-vegetables. Thus, in a dish I combine raw and chopped greens, yellows, and purples, a delight.
On the seasoning side, “choose a rapeseed oil because it has herbaceous notes, add a floral vinegar, primrose, elderberry, acacia… A little fleur de sel, a turn of the pepper mill, and voila!
Our favorite varieties
– Farcy triumph: Dwarf with early web, this green bean is recognizable by its long, ultra-thin green pods lightly mottled with purple. Season: July to August.
– Rocquencourt bean: Dwarf variety snow peas butter, with black grains with a long, thin and fleshy golden yellow sheath. Very tasty. Season: July to August.
– Purple Teepee: Bean with long purple pods, does not contain threads. When cooking it turns dark green, its flavor is very fine. Season: July to October.
– Wonder of Venice: Also called Or du Rhin, this rowing sled is distinguished by its flat (up to 20 cm) golden yellow pods. Fusion flavor. Season: July to October.