“We brake for green beans.” That’s a new bumper sticker I’m printing up for the summer. I know, I know, green beans don’t have quite the sex appeal of, say, fresh corn or juicy peaches. But honestly, a good green bean is hard to find at the grocery store; a green bean picked fresh from the garden or the field is sweet and crunchy. And the flavor is, well, bean-y. In a very good way.

I know I’m a bit biased about beans, because we grow and sell a lot of them at our farm stand. And, I just have to point out (in this non-humble moment) that we’ve won quite a few ribbons for those beans at the Agricultural Fair!

But in all seriousness, in my days at Fine Cooking magazine, I came to realize that green beans were probably the most popular vegetable in this country, and that people were hungry for new and better ways to cook them. So I’m offering a few suggestions, plus a nice Niçoise-inspired summer salad recipe.

Plant some now. Quickly let me tell you that both bush beans and pole beans are easy to grow, but bush beans are particularly unfussy (no trellising). And it isn’t too late to plant a new batch right now. (Try yellow wax beans or purple beans, too.) They’ll yield by early September and will keep on producing through our nice long, warm fall. By planting now, you avoid one pitfall of spring planting – cold, damp soil, which can rot seeds. 

My best tip for a generous crop of bush beans? Cover the seeds after planting to protect them from marauding birds. I’ve used fabric row cover, but my favorite solution is overturned mesh nursery trays. (You know, the black plastic basket-weave type that six-packs come in.) Weigh them down with a heavy rock and keep them on until the baby plants are poking through.

Pick your beans frequently and they’ll be better producers. Plus, younger beans are more tender. If you do wind up with a mess of monster beans, feed them to your backyard chickens. No chickens? Your minestrone soup pot will like them too. (Cut into small pieces.)

Stir-fry, slow-sauté, or grill-roast. Green beans love to be browned, taking on a nutty, caramelized flavor.

Add vegetable oil to a nonstick stir-fry pan, crank up the heat, add trimmed beans and salt; stir constantly until browned and softened. Add sliced scallions, minced garlic, and ginger; stir until fragrant. Finish with a quick dressing of soy sauce, brown sugar, and lime juice.

Cook green beans, quartered cremini mushrooms, wedges of yellow onion, and thyme sprigs very slowly in a straight-side sauté pan with plenty of olive oil and salt. This is a “crowded” sauté – the beans will brown and steam through at the same time.

Toss trimmed green beans with oil and salt and cook in a grill basket directly on the grill, stirring frequently for even browning. Serve with lemon butter or a drizzle of pesto.

Cut beans into small pieces. Heat oil in sauté pan with a halved serrano pepper, a coin of fresh ginger, and a smashed garlic clove. When oil is fragrant, add beans and quickly sauté until lightly browned. Remove aromatics and serve.

Par-boil, don’t “blanch.” Now, if you must boil green beans (as you will, for the salad recipe here, or for a simple side dish with butter and salt), please do not undercook them. Raw beans can be pleasantly crunchy, but partially cooked beans are just rubbery. Drop them in boiling salted water and then, after two or three minutes, bite into one. Keep tasting every minute so that you’ll learn to discern the progression in texture, and don’t take them out until you can bite through one without resistance (anywhere from three to eight minutes total, depending on your stove and how big your beans are. Cool the beans on dish towels, not in an ice bath.)

There is just no reason to serve bouncy beans.

Sorry, but I did say I was opinionated about beans, didn’t I? I come by it genetically, but that’s another story.

The following recipe was originally published with this article, Green Bean Salad Niçoise.