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Wilburn: Celebrate summers bounty with green beans
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Get your fill of summer's fresh green beans: Farmers at the Hall County Farmers Market have plenty of beans in many varieties. 

Asian flair dishes up more than plain-Jane beans: Don't know what to do with all those green beans? Try this recipe.

Free food preservation update class

What: Hall County Extension agent Debbie Wilburn will talk about and provide you with resources on canning, freezing, drying, jellies and pickling.
When: Noon to 1 p.m. July 14
Where: Spout Springs library, 6488 Spout Springs Road, Flowery Branch
How much: Free
Contact: 770-535-8290 to register

One of my favorite meals during the summer is a big bowl of home-cooked green beans with baby potatoes and a chunk of crunchy cornbread made in an iron skillet.

I knew summer was here when I started seeing all the different kinds of green beans at the Hall County Farmers Market last week. I saw many varieties of green beans, which I have enjoyed over the years, and then some types I didn't even know how to spell.

If you are looking for "old-fashioned" green beans, they have them. If you are looking for "gourmet" green beans, they have them. Here are some varieties that will be available in the next couple of weeks and throughout the summer: pole, wax, white half runners, stringless blue lakes, stringless French filet, haricot vert, Italian, purple wax, long beans (some more than 2 feet long), empress and fin de bagnol. I'm sure there will be even more as more vendors start bringing in their fresh produce.

One cup of beans has only 31 calories. High in vitamins A and C, a cup of raw snap beans can provide a woman with about 17 percent of her daily requirement of vitamin A and about 27 percent of vitamin C. Folate, which is needed during pregnancy and for growth, is present in snap beans as well.

Beans should be picked from the garden when they are straight and slender. They should be mature in length, but not over-mature. You will see the seeds (beans), bulging in the pods if they are over-mature. Over-mature beans will be tough, stringy, and have a starchy taste. Avoid beans with rust spots and scars.

Always store beans in a cool place. To preserve green beans from your garden, freeze or can them. Food preservation instructions can be found at National Center for Home Food Preservation.

For the best quality, preserve beans on the same day that you harvest them. If you have a large quantity and preserving them is not possible, keep the beans cool. Beans can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper. Use within five days for best quality.

Wash beans thoroughly in clear, cool water. Lift beans from the wash water and leave garden dirt and debris behind. Beans can be cooked whole, French cut or cut crosswise or diagonally. If you want sweet-tasting, crisp, fresh beans, cut them as little as possible. Cut older, more mature beans in the French style.

Boiling, steaming or microwaving are popular ways to cook beans. Stir-frying will preserve the best qualities of the fresh bean. Boil or microwave beans for as long as 10 minutes. Steam in a vegetable steamer over boiling water for three to five minutes. Stir-fry beans with other vegetables in a broth or a small amount of oil for only two to five minutes.

Whatever cooking method you choose, remember to cook beans as little as possible, using the smallest amount of water possible.

During the next couple of weeks you will find a greater variety of fruits and vegetables than any time so far this year at the farmers market. Come and fill up your bags or baskets with squash, cucumbers, peppers, kale, garlic Swiss chard, onions, corn, tomatoes, asparagus and of course green beans.

Delicious fruits including blackberries and raspberries and also coming in and quickly leaving as early shoppers snatch them up right away. You might also purchase black walnuts, honey, organic breads, potted plants or cut flowers.

The farmers market is open at 6 a.m. Tuesdays and 7 a.m. Saturdays until all produce is sold (get there early for the best selection). All produce that is sold must be grown in Hall County or other approved Northeast Georgia counties. The Hall County Farmers Market is located on the corner of East Crescent Drive and Jesse Jewell Parkway near Interstate 985 at exit 24.

Adapted from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.

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