Fresh green beans a tasty summer staple

Q: Are green beans considered a starchy vegetable?

A: No, they’re not. Starchy vegetables, which contain three times as much carbohydrate as non-starchy vegetables, include potatoes, sweet potatoes, green peas, corn, winter squash, cooked dried beans and peas. Examples of dry beans and peas include kidney beans, pinto beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas and lentils.

Q: What do I look for when choosing the best-quality green beans?

A: Green beans should have smooth, deep green skin without any bruises or brown spots. They should also be very crisp and make a snapping noise when you break them. If you can find fresh green beans at the store or your local farmers’ market that sells them loose, this ensures that you will get the best quality because you can sort through the beans yourself.

Green beans can be kept refrigerated for up to three days if they are kept in a perforated bag, unwashed.

Fresh green beans are a very nutrient-dense food. Green beans are considered an excellent source of vitamin K, with one cup providing approximately 155 percent of the daily value. Vitamin K plays an important role in bone mineralization by activating a bone protein called osteocalcin, which helps keep calcium in the bone.

Green beans are also an excellent source of vitamin A because they contain high amounts of carotenoids. When carotenoids enter the body, they can be converted to vitamin A. One cup of green beans provides 20.8 percent of your daily value for vitamin A. Carotenoids are important antioxidants, protecting against cardiovascular disease, some types of cancer and inflammation, while vitamin A plays a role in keeping the immune system healthy.

One cup of green beans also provides 20 percent of your daily value for dietary fiber and also contains other nutrients such as vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, iron, manganese, folate, magnesium and thiamin.

Green Bean and Tomato Sauté

Here are a couple of super-simple recipes using fresh green beans (frozen can be substituted as well).

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add green beans and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often until seared in spots. Push beans to the side; add garlic and additional olive oil if necessary; cook until fragrant, about 20 to 30 seconds.

Cover green beans and reduce temperature. Cook over low heat for 8 to 10 minutes. (If using cookware other than multi-ply stainless steel, cover green beans with water, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until beans are tender. Drain excess water off.)

Add tomatoes and stir. Once green beans are cooked, remove from heat; stir in balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information (per serving): 60 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 10 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams protein, 4 grams fiber, 10 milligrams sodium, zero cholesterol.

— Recipe is modified from Fruits and Veggies More Matters website.

Lemon Walnut Green Beans

8 cups small green beans

Cooking spray

2 cups sliced green onions

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 3/4 tablespoon crushed dried rosemary

5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon rind

Arrange green beans in a steamer basket over boiling water. Cover and steam 8 to 12 minutes or until crisp-tender. Plunge beans into cold water to stop the cooking process; drain.

Spray a sauté pan with cooking spray. Over medium-high heat, add green onions, and sauté until tender. Add green beans, walnuts, rosemary and lemon juice; cook, stirring constantly, until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with lemon rind.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutritional information (per serving): 110 calories, 4 grams fat, 5 grams protein, 20 grams carbohydrate, zero cholesterol, 20 milligrams sodium, 9 grams fiber.

— Recipe courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

— Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.