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Photo of Dragon Tongue Bush Beans by Natasha Gardner

Fresh Picks: Fresh Beans

Each week, we'll tell you the freshest thing to taste from Colorado farmers and chefs. 

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If beans remind you of too many overcooked casseroles, this season’s bounty will inspire you to rethink (and freshen up) this dinner staple.

Beans | Family: Fabaceae

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From the Farmer: Beans are fickle and fleeting, meaning that farmers must plant several successions to produce an ample crop for market. “Beans don’t have a long shelf life,” says Mark Guttridge, of Ollin Farms in Longmont, who says you should eat them within three days of being picked. Guttridge grows plenty of traditional green beans, but likes to add in yellow and purple varieties. “They look remarkable in a salad. Someone dubbed it the Mardi Gras mix. That’s our philosophy of nutrition: to try to have up to five varieties of colors a day.”

Good for You: With no cholesterol, few calories, and loads of folic acid, fresh beans are an obvious choice for a healthy diet. Bonus? If you are interested in where your food comes from, fresh beans are usually easy to track because they must be eaten so quickly (in other words: they tend to be sold at markets close to home).

At the Market: Fresh beans will produce a satisfying snap when split in two. You’re likely to find skinny French varieties, prized for their uniformity of color and size, but don’t shy away from different types, like the Dragon Tongue Bush Bean (pictured above). Theses colorful variants often share the same taste profile as their green siblings, but add a “wow” factor to any plate.

Around Town: One of food editor Amanda M. Faison‘s favorite bean dishes can be found on Osaka Ramen‘s menu. There, chef-owner Jeff Osaka serves the string beans chilled and tossed in a sesame-soy glaze. The dish is simple, but that’s what makes it so good. Tables also takes care to treat the veggie lightly: chef and co-owner Dustin Barrett pickles beans before adding them to a salad of spinach, heirloom tomato, radish, and almonds that’s tossed with tarragon vinaigrette. Over at Duo Restaurant, chef Tyler Skrivanek lightens up a barbecue pork cheek and biscuit entrée with dill-pickled beans (bonus: dishes on the kid’s menu arrive with a small helping of cooked carrots and al dente beans).

In Your Kitchen: Long beans, pole beans, haricot verts, runner bear, green beans—whatever you call them, fresh beans are too often cooked to mush. This is partly because the legumes hold up well to canning and freezing, and so are easy targets for home preservers looking to capture summer flavors for winter months. This year, catch these pods at their flavor peak in a salad with tomatoes and buttermilk, tossed with lemon and za’atar, or mixed with fresh tarragon and basil (I’ve made this recipe continuously for nearly a decade, it is that delicious). Want to tackle a showstopper meal? Opt for Alex Seidel’s—of Fruition Restaurant—grilled pork loin chop with griddle cakes and grilled bean salad (page 54 of 5280: The Cookbook).

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