By Heidi Lewis
Do you remember the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy is so hungry that she nicks a piece of fruit from a centerpiece only to discover that it’s a wax apple? She careens around the room in a mime’s distress with the apple stuck in her mouth, wide eyes, and eyelashes flapping “S.O.S”? In our west coast TakeHome cases this week are yellow wax beans; be assured they have nothing to do with wax. There’s no clear etymology on where the term “wax” came from—perhaps their sunny beeswax color. Maybe the Friends of the Wax Bean Society should lobby for a name change—like sunshine beans.
Wax beans are edible pod beans. They belong to the genus Phaseolus in the family Fabaceae—of legume and pea fame. Beans of the wax variety are sometimes known as snap, string, runner, or French beans. They’ve been developed so we can eat the whole pod; the seeds are small and soft. Wax beans are just like green beans in every way but without the chlorophyll—so they have a less of a “green” taste. At only 31 calories per cup, these sunny beans make a great snack and are high in bioavailable nutrients. Wax bean side dishes are in a lot of European cuisines, some with delicious mustard or herbed butter sauces.
Wax beans are a great leading character in salads, including salad Nií§oise: blanched and chilled wax beans, boiled potatoes, hard-cooked eggs, tomatoes, canned tuna, anchovies, olives, and capers. A little vinaigrette, and voilí —you’ll have a delicious entrée salad that’s just perfect for when you hear the front door open and “Lucy, I’m home!” ring out.
Preparation: Julia Child recommends breaking off the ends with fingertips and leaving whole or cut to 2 ½ inches. Rinse them with hot water and steam for 3–5 minutes. Taste for doneness and stop the cooking with a dunk in ice water.
Storage: Refrigerate in a plastic bag to avoid moisture loss (crisper drawer is best). Use within five days.