“This is what we need: simple food prepared in a simple, wholesome, and relishable manner.”
Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, 408.
Haricots verts is indeed French for green beans—haricot meaning beans and vert meaning green. Although green beans are of nearly universal distribution, over 130 varieties of green beans are known. Green is a misnomer, as they are not solely the emerald green we know them as. Pod color can be green, golden, purple, red, or streaked. Shapes range from thin fillet types to wide romano types and more common types in between. They are found in two major groups—bush beans and pole beans. Bush beans are short plants, growing to approximately two feet in height, without requiring supports. Pole beans have a climbing habit and produce a twisting vine. Also called snap beans, string beans, French beans, wax beans and haricots verts, these thin, finger-like beans are always fresh, crunchy and versatile. French green beans are longer and thinner than most American varieties, but if your recipe specifies haricots verts and you are unable to find them, substitute with the thinnest young green beans you can find.
Green beans manage to be super low in calories—a whole cup only containing a little over 40—yet still loaded with nutrients. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese, a very good source of vitamin A (notably through their concentration of carotenoids including beta-carotene), dietary fiber, potassium, folate and iron. And, also a good source of magnesium, thiamin, riboflavin, copper, calcium, phosphorus, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and niacin.
To get fresh beans ready, begin by washing them thoroughly in cold water and then topping and tailing them, a culinary term for snapping off the tip of both ends. Cook the beans quickly to avoid destroying their delicate flavor and crisp-tender quality. They can be boiled (check every minute for the perfect texture) and added to salads or braised, roasted, grilled on the barbecue, steamed, stir-fried or thrown into soups and stews.