Bulletin #4255, Vegetables and Fruits for Health: Green Beans and Wax Beans

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fresh green beans

Revised and updated by Associate Extension Professor Kathleen Savoie, University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
Originally developed by Extension Nutrition Specialist Nellie Hedstrom, University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

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Edible-pod beans are unique in the bean family because the pod and the bean are eaten when they are immature. Other beans are harvested to eat when they are mature and the bean is dry. The types of edible-pod beans commonly grown in Maine gardens include snap beans, (yellow, green, pole, or bush), Italian green beans, and purple wax beans.

Nutrition Information

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 and yellow beans from your garden, freeze or can them. Canning instructions are available from your UMaine Extension county office or see Bulletin #4046, Let’s Preserve Snap Beans.

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. Store in a cool basement or shed and freeze or can them as soon as possible. Small amounts of beans can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper. Use within five days.

How To Freeze Green Beans (YouTube video)


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 and microwave beans for up to ten 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.

Green Beans Vinaigrette

Green Beans Vinaigrette Food Nutrition Facts Label (click for details)

Serves 6

2 pounds green beans cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Dijon-type mustard
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Steam beans until tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain. Mix all ingredients except beans in a large serving bowl. Add beans and toss.

Green Beans Italian

Green Beans Italian Food Nutrition Facts Label (click for details)

Serves 6

1 pound green beans
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1/3 cup sliced onion
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 tablespoons water

Use small beans whole, or cut larger beans into slices. Steam over boiling water for 8 minutes. Mix all ingredients in a covered microwave dish. Microwave on high for 3 minutes or until the green pepper is tender, stirring halfway through cooking time.

Some content adapted with permission from University of Massachusetts Cooperative Extension.

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2009

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