The beans are ripe for the picking, and starting last week there’s about a xerox box or two full of beans ready to pick.
The green beans we grow are heirloom green beans. My dad and I love to try different heirloom vegetables in the garden (we’ve done about 25-30 heirloom tomato varieties!) and green beans are one we’ve had lots of success with each year. He planted a few varieties at my grandma’s house, and one row he built up to be almost 8 feet high. The vibes grow up and up and up so it’s a real space-saver. The tops of the vines have tons of beans, too.
In my opinion the green beans are best straight off the vine raw, that’s not really easy for me to do with all of them. Mary and I like to pickle them, we’ve dehydrated them, and I like to cook them in the crockpot, but perhaps the most versatile thing to do with them is to freeze them to use all year long.
While the process for freezing the beans is by no means difficult, it unfortunately isn’t as easy as just throwing them in the freezer. Freezing beans is a 6 step process, and luckily each step takes only a short amount of time.
A bunch of green beans. A sauce pot. Salt (kosher is better). A colander or two. A few big bowls for ice baths and temporarily storing the beans. Ice. Freezer bags. A straw.
1. Wash. This is easy. Just rinse the beans in cool water, being careful to rub off any cobwebs or dirt.
2. Pop and Pinch. Pinch of the stems, being mindful to leave as much of the bean intact as possible. You can also pop the bean into 1-2 inch pieces, though some people like to leave their beans whole.
3. Boil. Fill a sauce pot with water and add a generous amount of salt, about 1-2 tablespoons per quart of water. The beans won’t be in the water long enough to absorb too much of the flavor but what is absorbed will aid in preserving the flavor and nutrients. Once the water is boiling add your beans and let them boil for 2 minutes. The beans should turn bright green and should taste cooked but should still be quite firm. Do NOT overlook them.
4. Ice Bath. Drain the beans and immediately dump them into an ice bath, stirring gently with a wooden spoon or your hands to ensure that they cool quickly.
5. Drain and Dry. Once the beans are completely cooled drain the water and pat the beans dry with a paper towel.
6. Bag. Once the beans are dry you can portion them into freezer bags. I usually do a mix of gallon-sized and sandwich-sized bags, and occasionally a few snack-sized bags. Lay the bags flat and sort of shake them so the beans are all flat and spread evenly. Of course you don’t want to fill the bags too full. I zip the bags almost all the way closed then stick a straw in the end and suck the air out. While still sucking, pull the straw out and quickly zip the rest of the bag. This isn’t the best way to get all the air out but it does keep the bags flatter and easier to store.