Hundreds of thousands of bean varieties are locked up in gene banks, special places containing seeds and other propagation material for plants, locked and conserved as humans’ cultivation treasures for future use. Just a few hundreds of these varieties are cultivated worldwide and they are changing according to the trends of human consumption.
Locally, and in the shorter term, this is the best season in Greece for enjoying fresh green beans. The sweet weather of sunny days and cool nights give the appropriate boost to the growing beans. Green fresh beans in farmers’ markets (laiki agora) can offer you the best meal, even if you are not a big fan of legumes. But don’t worry if you are still not in Greece! In the summer days, a special treat, most common in the Aegean islands and the Peloponnese, are ‘ambelofasoula’, thin and long beans, usually made fresh-boiled for salad or as a meze for tsipouro and ouzo.
Phaseolus vulgaris (common bean) derives from South America and needs a hot climate to thrive. It makes a lovely climbing seasonal plant and creates long green lobes (‘fruit’) which contain the seeds of the bean. These seeds in some varieties have the tendency to grow, so we cultivate them to produce the dried legume.
Green or dried beans are rich in nutritional value and traditionally they were called ‘the meat of the poor.’ Just one cup of green beans (100 g) can offer you 2g of protein, 11% of dietary fiber, 3% of calcium, 6% of iron and 5% of potassium you need each day. Not bad for just 31 calories! It is a true treasure of nature, if you imagine that your daily diet should be around 2000 calories. Also, it makes you feel full due to its richness in fiber.
Usually, green beans in Greece are connected with ‘ladera’ recipes – meaning olive oil is used – for casseroles of green beans with some potatoes, carrots, tomato sauce, onion, and herbs. Feta cheese completes the meal. In some places, chunks of beef or other tender meat fortified the traditional ladera for a more protein-rich meal.
There is no doubt that Greece’s climate offers the variety you need of fresh, local, and nutritious food – from just a tiny piece of Earth, blessed with different seasonal goodies. The particular ‘superheroes of farmers markets’ are changed up each month or even weekly. Just ask what your farmer recommends to you. Maybe this is why you never “get bored” with food in Greece. Nature’s creativity, constantly on your table!
* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.
Evropi-Sofia Dalampira holds a PhD in Agricultural Economics and an MSc Botany-Biology.