SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — String beans really should be called stringless beans. Originally they really did have a lot of strings—just take a look at the fava beans that you see at the market. That tough string that encapsulates the entire frame of the pod that holds the bean together inside.
In 1884 Calvin Keeney developed ‘Keeney’s Stringless Bean’ in Le Roy, New York. He worked over 6,000 acres and developed 18 other new beans that were all stringless.
The ones you find in the market today are all stringless. Some of the most common ones are: the French-filet beans; also called the haricot vert (the French name), Blue Lake, Romano and Chinese Long Beans.
Some of the more unusual varieties that you may see occasionally are the Wax Bean, which is yellow in color; the Dragon’s Tongue, which is streaked; Rattlesnake, also streaked and the Purple King, which really is the color the names implies.
I really miss the Kentucky Wonder. While you can grow it in a garden because the heirloom seed companies still have the seeds, it’s virtually disappeared from the market.
The Romanos are, unquestionably, my favorites; they just have a more fleshy, interesting texture. But please let it cook until it’s tender. Al dente doesn’t mean that it’s served crunchy; it just means that it has to be cooked to the right texture until it tastes right.
A raw bean is fine with a dip but if it’s going to be cooked, let’s do it properly.
Narsai David is the KCBS Food and Wine Editor. He has been a successful restaurateur, chef, TV host, and columnist in the Bay Area spanning four decades. You can hear him Saturdays at 10:53am, 12:53pm and 4:53pm, and at 2:53am Sunday on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.
(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)