Shelling beans: How to choose, store and prepare

(Anne Cusack, Los Angeles Times)

If you’re at the farmers market and see what looks like a wilting mound of what must once have been beautiful string beans tinted with patterns of cream and crimson, don’t pass them by. These are shelling beans: varieties that are normally grown for drying but which can be sold (and cooked) fresh. They have a sweet, subtle flavor that’s somewhere between the earthy complexity of dried and the green, vegetal taste of fresh. The season lasts for only two or three weeks, so get them while you can.

How to choose: Look for pods that have begun to shrivel and dry, with full-sized beans inside. These will be the most mature and have the best flavor.

How to store: If you’re going to use the beans within a couple of days, simply refrigerate them in the pods. If you’re going to store them for a little longer, shuck them first.

How to prepare: Shuck them and simmer with a little water and olive oil, some minced garlic or shallot, and maybe some fresh herbs. They cook quickly – usually in less than half an hour. You can add them to light summer stews and pastas, or serve them on their own as a side dish.