A Bean By Any Other Name

by Sue Taggart

Flat beans, which are also known as helda beans, are very similar to the popular English runner bean. Romano beans are another form of flat bean that originated in Italy. Depending where you come from, you develop a staunch loyalty for the particular “flat green bean” you grew up with!

For me, it’s the English runner bean, but I am pretty happy if I can get my hands on the other varieties too. These beans bring back so many fond memories for me. My whole family love runner beans and it’s such a treat to be around the dinner table with them all when they are being served—mainly because I don’t get to go back to visit very often and when I do, there’s always a big traditional Sunday lunch complete with runner beans—they freeze well so are always in season at our house.

My love of runner beans began with my grandfather. He grew most of the vegetables we consumed and the “red flowering” runner bean was his favorite. I loved to walk through the rows of beans with him and help him pick them for my grandmother to cook for dinner.

I make them now the same way my grandmother and mother always did—except I cook them way less, as I like all my vegetables to have a slight crunch to them. I always buy twice as many as I think I will need because I like to prepare them by not only “topping and tailing them”, but I also cut all the outside edges away, as that part can be a little stringy especially if you buy them late in the growing season. That, and I can eat a huge plate of them with just butter and pepper. So, if you think in terms of a “normal serving” of strings beans, at least double it for the delicious runner bean aka helda bean, aka flat bean, aka Romano bean!

Cooking the beans:

Prepare them by washing, cut off the top and tail and run a very sharp knife all the way around the edges to remove just the outer sides, then slice diagonally into ‘ribbons’.

Steam for about 8-12 minutes until just tender (do not overcook).


Toss in butter and freshly ground pepper

That’s it. You can eat them on their own or they make a great side dish wth fish, chicken, lamb or pork. Enjoy!

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