French beans are classed nutritionally as a green vegetable rather than as beans because they share the same characteristics as greens. They are a good source of fibre, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and folic acid.
French beans are mostly fat and fleshy, and when fresh, should be firm so that they break in half with a snapping sound. Avoid wilted ones or those with overly mature pods, which feel spongy when lightly squeezed. To top and tail, gather them together and slice away about 5mm at either end. If necessary, pull off any stringy bits.
To cook, plunge the beans into rapidly boiling salted water. Don’t overcook as they will lose their texture and flavour – they should be eaten‘al dente’. French beans can be served on their own as a vegetable. They can simply be tossed in butter or served with a sauce (for example, a cream, shallots and bacon sauce).
If they are being served with other vegetables,choose vegetables such as carrots or other root vegetables for good flavour and colour combinations. For salads simply blanch and refresh under cold water and serve with garlic vinaigrette. French beans can also be wrapped in bacon and served as a starter or appetiser. They are a good ingredient for vegetarian dishes because they add both texture and colour to a dish.
French beans can be stir-fried and are used in oriental cookery in this way. They can be added to soups and stews and used to garnish vegetable dishes. Flavours and ingredients that go well with French beans include bacon, toasted pine nuts, sesame seeds, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger, cream and mustard.