Learn what makes your favorite type of green bean different from all the rest.
Lemon Pepper Green Beans
Credit: Louise Hagger

While green beans can be found in the grocery store year-round, the peak season for this lean green vegetable is in the warmer months. A staple side dish as well as the star ingredient in dishes such as green bean casserole, the bright, crunchy vegetable is easy to grow in a garden and versatile to cook with at home. When shopping for green beans, choose ones that are free from brown spots, feel firm, and snap when broken. Ahead, learn about the common varieties of green beans, including wax beans and haricots verts.

Green Beans

The all-encompassing term for long, tender beans is green beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), which get their color from chlorophyll. While green beans refer to every type of variety, including wax beans and haricots verts, they're also a specific breed. Green beans can be eaten raw or cooked, and can be eaten whole, unlike shelling beans or shelled English peas, which have a much tougher exterior that is rather inedible. When shopping for green beans, don't shy away from varieties labeled as string beans or snap beans; those are just different names for the same vegetable. No matter what they're called, green beans shine in our Mediterranean Three-Bean Salad and in stir-fries, such as this Spicy Pork-and-Pineapple Stir-Fry. You could also keep things simple and make our Lemon-Pepper Green Beans, which is pictured here.

Purple beans get their eggplant color from plant pigments called anthocyanins, but as the beans cook, the pigment disappears and they turn green. In terms of their flavor, purple beans tend to be a bit sweeter than regular green beans.

Wax Beans

Also known as yellow beans, wax beans look different than the usual green beans but taste remarkably similar. The only difference between wax beans and green beans is that wax beans do not contain chlorophyll, which is what gives green beans their verdant hue. While green beans tend to lose some of their vivid color when cooked, wax bean's pale yellow hue remains even after being blanched in boiling, salted water. The crisp yellow vegetable shines in our Tomato and Wax-Bean Salad with Olive-Oil Croutons, this summertime Succotash Salad, and alongside their green relative in our recipe for Dry-Fried Green Beans.

Haricots Verts

This term refers to French green beans, which are longer, thinner, and have a more pronounced flavor than regular green beans. Haricots verts are also grown earlier in the year than other varieties of green beans, which is part of the reason why their taste is different. In grocery stores, you may also find them labeled as "French green beans." Serve them in this French-inspired recipe for Roasted Carrot Nicoise or our crowd-friendly Crudites with Herbed Ricotta.

Pole Versus Bush Green Beans

Green beans grow one of two ways: either vertically, with vines growing up poles, or in bushes close to the ground. One growing habit is not better than the other. It's a matter of preference, but will also depend what type of green bean you want to grow. For example, certain varieties of wax beans grow on a pole, while others grow in bushes. On the other hand, the majority of haricots verts are bush beans.


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