Hollywood Farmers' Market. Click through for more beautiful varieties and a primer...
Above: Rattlesnake beans, Appaloosa beans, Calypso beans
Unlike green and yellow snap and wax beans which are grown for their pods, shell beans are primarily grown for their seeds. Shell beans are usually sold in their dried form, so fresh ones are a late summer-early fall treat. In LA, they will be available for the next month, although different varieties come and go, so try them while you can! They can be found throughout the Hollywood market, with the most dazzling array from McGrath Family Farms.
When shopping for fresh shell beans, look for pods that are bulging with firm, plump seeds. Some varieties may have leathery pods, which is good, but avoid dried pods. Unshelled beans will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator, shelled ones for a couple of days. Shelled beans can also be frozen. Removing beans from their pods may be time-consuming, but their tender flavor and texture makes the process worth it. If you don't find shelling to be wonderfully meditative (as I do), get some friends and family to pitch in and make a pre-dinner party of it!
Do you have a favorite way to prepare fresh shell beans?
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(Images: Gregory Han and Emily Ho)