Hand drawn image of Flat beans

Flat beans

Phaseolus vulgaris

Flat beans are similar to the gardeners' favourite, runner beans, but slightly flatter in shape and without any stringy bits. They're fresh, snappy and succulent, and an easy way to add sweet greenery to any plate.

Image of Flat beans being produced

In the kitchen

Storage

Flat beans are best stored in the bottom of your fridge, where they should keep for a week before losing their fresh 'snap'.

Prep & Cooking tips

Flat beans may need topping, but not usually tailing. You can do this simply by snapping the tops off with your fingers, or by lining them up in a neat row and using a knife. They are a little too long and ungainly to serve whole, so you’ll inevitably slice them before using. They look prettier sliced at a sharp angle, but the choice is yours.

They are tender enough to eat raw and will lend a fresh crunch to a salad or slaw. You can add them straight to a wok or frying pan and sauté them swiftly. They’ll cook in boiling water in a matter of minutes, depending on how thickly or thinly they have been cut and how much of a bite and a squeak you like. They can be slow cooked in a rich tomato sauce; what they lose in colour and vibrancy, they make up for with melting tenderness.

Easy ideas

1. Raw

In the main beans are better cooked, if only briefly. However, raw beans can add crunch to a salad. Whole ones can join a crudité selection for dunking into aioli, hollandaise or bagna cauda.

2. Dressed up

They work well lightly steamed or boiled and thrown through a simple dressing. A little butter, black pepper and lemon is a common starting point, made all the more compelling if you lightly brown the butter first. Enrobed in a vinaigrette, made heady with plenty of mustard, capers and chopped green herbs, they’d make a splendid salad with some boiled potatoes, crispy bacon and chopped egg in tow. They’ll happily shoulder a simple Japanese dressing of miso thinned with a little soy, rice wine and sesame seeds, or maybe a bolder Thai affair awash with lime, fish sauce, chilli and ginger.

3. Green bean ragú

Green beans don’t always have to be bright and squeaky; they are more than happy to be given a little extra time and heat. There are plenty of recipes from the Mediterranean that deal with a green bean glut in this way, giving a melt-in the-mouth tenderness. Gently cook them in a rich tomato sauce for the best part of an hour, add a dash of water or stock if they look like drying out. Try this recipe for ragú of green beans with tomatoes, olives and farinata.

4. On the BBQ

Make sure your BBQ or griddle is at a medium/high heat – no flames or fireworks, just steady glowing embers. Rub the beans lightly with oil and throw them straight onto the bars. Cook for 2-3 mins, until marked and starting to blister. Flip them over and cook for a further 2-3 mins. Transfer to a bowl and toss with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. Serve in an unruly pile with lemon wedges on the side for squeezing.

Goes well with

Alliums (garlic, onion, shallot) Acid (lemon, vinegar) Asian flavourings (chilli, ginger, sesame, soy) Cured pork Herbs Honey or sugar Nuts Salty flavours (anchovies, capers, feta, olives, parmesan) Tomato Tuna

Flat beans recipes

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