Appalachia Appalachian Food

How I Cook Fresh Greenbeans

How to cook fresh green beans

We’ve truly been in greenbean heaven this summer. Our Sow True Seed beans have really outdone themselves-and are continuing to do so. Granny said she thought I’d still be picking beans when the first frost laid this fall. I said “Well that will be just fine with me.”

One of my friends recently told me even though she’d grew up eating fresh greenbeans from her parents’ garden, she never took the time to learn how to harvest them nor how to cook them. I gave her a little tutorial of how I harvest and cook my greenbeans and thought I’d share it with you as well.

The perfect way to cook green beans

Look at these beautiful greenbeans!! If they all looked that pretty the stringing and breaking would be a breeze! But they don’t.

Brown spots on my green beans

Sometimes the pod will have brown spots like this or even worse. I never worry about the spots when I’m picking beans. I grab every bean I see-leaving only the little ones that haven’t developed fully.

Later when I’m stringing and breaking the beans I use a pairing knife to cut off most of the brown spots. I know I don’t see every brown spot, and the ones I miss have never hurt us.

Shelly beans

Sometimes the bean will look worse than the one with a few brown spots. Like the beans in these photos.

They’ve turned dry, yellow, and brown. When I find them I always wonder how in the world I missed them the previous picking. Greenbeans like to hide.

What to do with green beans with brown spots

I pick those yellow/brown beans too. During the stringing and breaking process I discard the pod and keep the beautiful beans hiding in that yucky outer shell.

As the summer moves along, I have more and more of these types of beans. Granny said she always did like a pot of greenbeans with a lot of shellys in them. I do too. Having those shelled beans cook along with the rest seems to add a richness to the pot.

Should I wash my green beans before eating

After I string and break my beans I give them a good rinse in cold water.

Shelly beans in the fall

Rinsing the beans gets ride of any bugs, leaves, or other trash that might be hanging around.

Parboil green beans to remove scum

I place the rinsed beans in a pot and cover with water. I bring the pot to a boil and then rinse the beans again.

I know everyone doesn’t do this step, but Granny taught me to do it this way. She said bringing them to a boil helped get rid of the bean scum (not sure exactly what that is) and made sure they were really clean before you cooked them.

How to season green beans

Cover the greenbeans with water again and now you’re ready to cook them. Well almost.

First you need to find something to season the greenbeans with. Ham, fat-back, and bacon all come to mind.

But if I don’t have any meat I season them with a small amount of olive oil, salt, and pepper.

How to cook fresh green beans like grandmother

The amount of cooking time needed for a pot of greenbeans is also a personal preference issue. Granny cooks her’s a long time and I like them. When I’m cooking greenbeans I let them go for about an hour or hour and a half.

Southern cooked green beans

There are various ways, recipes, and thoughts about growing greenbeans, harvesting greenbeans, and cooking cooking greenbeans. As I told my friend, use these general guidelines and then figure out how you like to cook greenbeans: how you like to string/break them, what sort of seasoning you like, how much seasoning, and how well done you like them.

Would love to hear about your preferred way of cooking greenbeans, so leave a comment and tell me.


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  • Reply
    Chuck Howell
    July 3, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    Grandmother Polly Renfro Howell of Robbinsville N C pickled greenbeans,as well as corn on the cob “Roastnears.” She strung greenbeans on thread and hung them behind the woodburning cookstove, called them “Leatherbritches.” She dried apples this way as well. Peachbutter was her speciality, made from the peelings of the fresh fruit. She was special, a great storyteller.

  • Reply
    August 11, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    Interesting that you write it as “greenbeans”, all one word. As for cooking them, I do a lot of different things with them–cook them with ham or bacon, saute them with mushrooms, green onions, a little red pepper, and water chestnuts, or just as you do, only even plainer,without the oil. The very best way to my mind is those first beans, boiled with new potatoes and covered in butter. Yum yum!

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    August 10, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    I know a lot of modern day cooks like them cooked still crisp. I’m not one of those. I like them completely tender which takes at least 20 minutes, maybe longer. I cook them with salt and pepper, a bit of bacon, ham or rind, a tiny slice of onion and a slice of tomato, and a bit of minced garlic. When thoroughly cooked, I drain them, taste to correct seasoning, add a pat of butter and then serve them.
    Our Hungarian Grandmother made Cream Green Bean Soup which we STILL all love. You cook them the same way as above. Remove a cup of the broth and set aside. Bring the pot to a light simmer. Stir in a cup or two of sour cream and a heaping tablespoon or two of Hungarian Paprika until well blended. Then to the reserved broth, you add a tablespoon of corn starch. Stir it into the pot until well blended and simmer until the soup thickens. When serving, I generally add another dollop of sour cream and sprinkle a tiny bit of finely minced parsley to the top of each bowl, although Grandma never did this, just for color contrast and flavor at the end. We love to eat this with buttered Rye Bread. Yum!!!
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    August 10, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    I may be a bit more country than you but green beans cry for Bacon drippings and I also add Beef Bullion to taste in place of salt . I then send them them Heaven, I boil the H*ll outta them since I do not prefer the “Green” taste. In fact I prefer them warmed over to freshly cooked so I always make sure there are enough left-overs for several days as they get better with each warm up. I’m also right in there with Jim’s Grandpa Joe when it comes to Cornbread crumbled in the Pot Liquor. I was raised on Country Fare and still prefer it to the Nouveau Cuisine aka “Raw” offerings of many upscale restaurants when it comes to Green Beans.

  • Reply
    August 10, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    Chuck-thank you for the comment! We mostly grew Sow True Seeds Greasy Bean Varieties this year-you can go to their website and see their list of beans. We also grew a heirloom from Nantahala we got from Kenneth Roper. We have consistently had really good luck with Sow True Seed beans so I highly recommend them.
    Hope you have a great week!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    August 10, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    Yes Jim that is how we do it : ) Just barely bring the water to a boil and then drain the water off. I’ll tell Granny what you said about the vitamins but I don’t think she’ll listen LOL : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    August 10, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Bob and Inez-thank you for the question! The cucumbers don’t have to be as small as the whole baby dill pickles you buy in the store. I think the recipe calls for small cucumbers because the ones typically grown in our area of Appalachia get tough once they get too large. You do slice the cucumbers in this recipe-so you end up with pieces. As long as the cucumbers are good and fresh I say go for it!
    I’m so glad you’re still enjoying the Blind Pig and The Acorn!!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 10, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    We grew for years what my relatives called “shellys”! They are actually a bean that is white to red striped inside the pod. The pod will turn yellowish white with red stripes of sorts. The pod will be sort of dry and leathery…We also use the overgrown green beans as shellys. Careful when they get too damp, or you can have that slime feeling bean…Won’t eat it, not me…Don’t care if it’s been boiled gazillion times…
    I was amazed that no one except Lonnie mentioned adding a bit of onion to the bean pot. We love onion in our green beans.
    I wash in warm water, place the beans on a big drainer to start drying. I break them and wash them again. If, I have it I use a strip of bacon rendered. I would rather use streaked meat, but don’t keep it on hand. I don’t salt my beans until almost finished cooking…because I think too much salt makes any bean tough…We add shellys if we have some.
    I have cooked green beans with just a touch of oil, a pinch of garlic salt, flavor..
    We love to add to the top of the pot of shellys and green beans, just before they get done, pods of okra…Don’t judge until you’ve tried it…Make sure you don’t cut thru to the seeds and leave the stem end on, cut close. This keeps them from weeping the slimy from the okra into the beans…
    Italian beans, Roma’s are cooked with salt and then ketchup stirred into the beans for an Italian dish….
    I wish I had a pot of green beans on right now…
    We also use left over ham bone for green beans and pintos…
    I prefer streaked meat for beans and fatback or jowl for blackeyed peas….But, that is just the way my folks cooked them…

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    August 10, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    Your green beans look delicious. My Mom always used salt pork to season her green beans and pinto beans. I still do, I find the leanest piece of salt pork I can and cook the beans a little on the tender side. One of my favorite meals is green beans with little potatoes cooked together, sliced onion, coleslaw, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, and cornbread. YUM, I believe I could eat it every day, I love fresh vegetables.
    If I am in a hurry I will cook my green beans in a pressure cooker.

  • Reply
    Harry Fristoe
    August 10, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Got to have a little bacon grease with my green beans. As a kid I did not eat them but love them now!

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    August 10, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Mama always used fatmeat (salt pork). She would put a few thick slices in a pot of water and bring it to a boil. Then she covered the pot and let it simmer while she picked a mess of green beans, snapped off the ends, and washed them (only one washing, but the health department never caught us). Then she dumped the beans into the water, added pepper and a bit of salt, covered them, and let them cook for an hour or more. About a half hour before dinner, she added little new potatoes (unpeeled) and let them cook on top of the beans. I still cook beans in much the same way, except I usually use bacon drippings. I like to mash the potatoes with my fork and pour some of the delicious green bean pot likker over them. Yummy!

  • Reply
    Vanessa Elhenicky
    August 10, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    I had a lady who taught me to can green beans & she called the shelled beans “bullets”, they made the jars prettier. I prefer them all shelled & dried in winter dishes, I can never get enough of the strings out w/out jacking up our teeth.

  • Reply
    August 10, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    I prefer them with a lot of shellys included.

  • Reply
    August 10, 2015 at 11:05 am

    That’s about as clear as can be
    explained and shown on Green Beans. Having some shelled beans to look at in the jars makes ’em pretty. Since they have to be heated up after opening a jar, I don’t let my beans cook too long before canning. But my favorite taste is with ham cooked with them when heating up.
    I put all the yellow beans aside
    and in a box to shell out for
    next year’s planting. Great blog
    today, and all the pictures are nice…Ken

  • Reply
    Bob and Inez Jones
    August 10, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Good Morning Tipper- I have a question about the 14 day pickles. You said use small cukes, I think. How small? This is a different recipe than others that I have and have seen where we cut up the cukes in bite size pieces. Cukes are just coming on here and I would like to try your recipe. Love your site! Thanks.

  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    August 10, 2015 at 10:11 am

    This may not be acceptable to some. But my mother, who was a Home Ec. teacher, and now Marolyn, my wife, always cook green beans (and most vegetables) in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes. We find them to be well done and very good. We have two pressure cookers.

  • Reply
    August 10, 2015 at 10:02 am

    I boil the beans much as you do but add a small amount of bacon grease. I don’t cook them as long as most people since we like them more crisp. I also break them in much longer pieces. If I have some new potatoes to throw in with them, that’s all the better.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 10, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Tipper–I’m mostly with Granny when it comes to green beans, and I’m definitely all about lots of shelly beans (I’m glad others use that term or description). However, I’ll have to differ with her on getting the bean scum off if I understand what you wrote. Does that involve bringing the beans to a boil and then pouring the water off of them before adding water and resuming the cooking process?
    If so, you are losing a lot of vitamins. Grandpa Joe always liked to sasser the pot liquor from most anything cooked in water–greens, dried beans, green beans, peas, you name it–and i now realize that as he slurped that juice or sopped it up with cornbread he was getting the essence of the vegetable’s goodness.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 10, 2015 at 9:16 am

    I suspect the traditional way of cooking green beans in Appalachia would be considered over-cooked most other places. I surely do not like crunchy beans. Ugh ! Gives me the heebee-geebees just thinking about it, like fingernails on a chalk board. The up-scale folks are welcome to’em.
    By the way, we tend to take having cooking oils for granted now, but it wasn’t always so. In Colonial days and on the frontier, oil was likly to be bear grease. Then later hog lard was the mainstay, hence ‘fatback’. Vegetable oils only became common in my lifetime out in the sticks. I distinctly remember the switch from lard to Crisco vegetable oil. There was no corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil or olive oil then. My Mom saved bacon grease to re-use in other cooking. That was a widespread practice back in the day. Dad killed one or two hogs in November and we rendered at least some of the lard. I can just remember my Grandma having a 5-gallon tin lard ‘stand’ in the kitchen. Those went the way of the dodo in the 1950’s. I sure would like to have one of those cans. Grandma used an old one for storage and it got sat on so much that the lid actually wore through at one of the little raised ridges.
    I hope you do have beans until frost. That would go a long way toward an above-average garden year.

  • Reply
    August 10, 2015 at 9:02 am

    Hmmm…I’m going to have to try this method of cooking. Maybe not quite so long, but the olive oil, salt and pepper sound like a good seasoning. My family is getting tired of the same old, same old taste!

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    August 10, 2015 at 8:37 am

    Tipper: I have to be honest – Jim loves to cook green beans! And my older sisters (4 of them)did the cooking of green beans at home! AND THEY DID A GOOD JOB!
    Now I am famous for ‘burning’the beans’ – because the very first date I had with Jim (going to a GA TECH football game)I had burned the beans and our apartment on the Bouleavard smelled awful! My oldest brother was there to meet Jim for the first time and he WARNED Jim ‘about Eva Nell who can’t even cook beans!” Oh well! You know the rest of the story!
    Cheers, Eva Nell
    p.s. I still love green beans and Jim still oops – I can not tell a lie!

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    August 10, 2015 at 8:28 am

    Your post today on harvesting, preparing and cooking green beans was thorough and most helpful. How many times have I myself gone through all the steps: preparing the land, cultivating the beans, keeping the “bean bugs” off, watching them get ready for picking, breaking (selling the full ones), rinsing well, and again after heating, seasoning and cooking.
    Although this package of seasoning has a good bit of salt–maybe too much for those with salt-free diet–I use an envelope of the Goya brand “Ham flavored seasoning” and, as you, a few drops of olive oil as I cook the beans about 30 to 45 minutes. (The Goya is also good to season canned beans.) Good eating!

  • Reply
    barbara Gantt
    August 10, 2015 at 8:04 am

    We love green beans. I always grow a lot of them to have in the winter. We dont like frozen beans so I can them. Lots of shellys are wonderful too. I cook them slow with bacon grease. Sometimes, I add in new potatoes, washed and scraped near the end of cooking.
    My kids like them with olive oil and garlic. They cook them a short time.
    I think that I like the slow cooked ones best as thats how I learned from my Aunt Helen many years ago. Barbara

  • Reply
    August 10, 2015 at 7:49 am

    I just love eating fresh beans. There is nothing better than beans right off the vine. Yummy!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 10, 2015 at 7:48 am

    Tip, I prepare green beans mostly the same way you do. I even use the shorter cooking time. I prefer vegetables crisp rather than mushy.
    The older folks like my grandmother cooked everything a long time, to a mush I call it. I think that was a safety precaution. If memory serves me they thought green beans were poisonous unless well cooked. I can remember someone telling me that the home canned green beans were not safe to eat until cooked a long time after they were removed from the jar. I never understood that because the canning process of green beans requires them to be cook a long time.
    Parboiling was a must for beans whether they were green beans or dried beans. That was for cleanliness….I think.
    I have used many different seasonings…bacon grease, butter, ham bone, oil, olive oil, and fat back. In terms of flavor I like a ham bone and fat back but in terms of health olive oil is much better.
    I also like beans lightly cooked as you do so if a ham bone or fat back is used I cook them in water a while before adding the beans.
    Your timing is good I canned beans yesterday and have a few more to do today!

  • Reply
    Lonnie Baker
    August 10, 2015 at 7:47 am

    I sauté some chopped onion and I use chicken stock instead of water and I like to throw in a bit of country ham and some black pepper. If I have an abundance of jalapeños, I’ll toss one of those in too.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    August 10, 2015 at 7:12 am

    I love fresh green beans, I steam them with garlic. I just crush the garlic with the handle of a knife, no chopping.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    August 10, 2015 at 7:12 am

    I love fresh green beans, I steam them with garlic. I just crush the garlic with the handle of a knife, no chopping.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    August 10, 2015 at 7:12 am

    I love fresh green beans, I steam them with garlic. I just crush the garlic with the handle of a knife, no chopping.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    August 10, 2015 at 7:12 am

    I love fresh green beans, I steam them with garlic. I just crush the garlic with the handle of a knife, no chopping.

  • Reply
    August 10, 2015 at 7:00 am

    Steaming is my preferred method for most vegetables and especially green beans, partly because they keep a brighter color. I grew up eating all boiled vegetables but got one of those cheap little round fold-up steamer inserts when I was 17 and it was a revelation. I’ll certainly try your method of adding in some shelly beans – that sounds really good!
    My first yellow beans will be picked today – maybe just a handful but I’m planning to enjoy every one 🙂

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