Most Of The World's Green Beans Come From This Country

Green beans are not a trendy vegetable. They don't have the cachet of California avocados or the Instagram-ready good looks of radicchio. There aren't too many restaurants that are giving locally-sourced green beans the center stage over beets or squash. Sure some garlic green bean dishes might show up as a side here or there, but we doubt many servers are pointing them out and saying, "you have to try those." According to Fresh Produce, they don't even crack the top 10 most popular vegetables sold in the U.S. But, darn it, green beans are important, and more than that, they're crispy, crunchy, bright, and delicious.

As far as we're concerned, green beans are always welcome on our plate. They are always a hit when they get a chance to shine, like in this lemon and garlic green bean dish. There is a reason Newsweek shows green bean casserole, one of the only common special occasion dishes featuring green beans, outperforming other Thanksgiving mainstays like cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes. Fresh green beans have a mild vegetal flavor that doesn't hit you in the face while bringing great texture and being easy to prepare and cook. But does the U.S. reign supreme when it comes to growing green beans?

China produces the vast majority of the world's green beans

Sorry Yanks, but not even close. China is a big country in many ways. Feeding 1.4 billion people requires a lot of food, and green beans are no exception. Global Trade says China produces 21 million metric tons of green beans a year, accounting for more than 75% of all the green beans in the world and more than 10 times the country in second place, Indonesia. Americans like green beans too, coming in third, but nobody comes close to China's love for these slender, crunchy beans.

While China might make you think chili peppers or rice (and you'd also be correct), their massive lead in growing green beans should come as no surprise, as they dominate the global vegetable market, owing largely to the country's size. According to Statista, China produces nearly 600 million metric tons of fresh vegetables, more than 20 times the U.S. Maybe if we had more nationally enjoyed dishes (besides holiday casserole) like China's Sichuan green bean, aka gan bian si ji dou, we could bridge that gap a little (via Serious Eats).

Where did green beans come from?

Green beans are a variety of the common bush bean, making them a relative of dried beans like black, navy, and kidney beans, according to MasterClass. Although different types of beans have been eaten throughout history in all corners of the globe, green beans and other bean varieties originated in the Western Hemisphere. Other legumes like fava beans and lentils were eaten in Europe and Asia, but The Advocate says dried beans didn't become a worldwide staple until sailors and explorers made contact with Native American civilizations and took them back home, recognizing their potential as a food that's cheap, filling, and easy to store.

The common bean from which green beans were originally derived was domesticated in Mexico and Peru. ThoughtCo says its domestication dates sometime between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago. The adaptability of the original bean plant led to it being grown in a wide range of climates and morphing into thousands of varieties, including 130 different types of green beans like the French haricots vert. Indigenous Americans recognized the incredible potential of beans thousands of years before the rest of the world would learn about them, and they became one of the "three sisters," staple crops along with squash and maize, which were all grown in the same fields.

Cooking with green beans

Beyond being delicious, a great thing about green beans is how easy they are to make. First off, they are a cinch to prepare, needing just a quick chop off the ends before they're ready to go. According to Serious Eats, they also take well to almost all cooking methods, working just as well seared as they do baked in a casserole. Their physical structure also helps them keep a firm texture while developing deeper flavor and a wonderful bright green color. Blanched green beans help make a simple side dish great and take this Salad Niçoise to another level.

And you don't need to stop with simple preparations. Green beans are a year-round treat that are just as welcome on a grill in the summer as they are in a comforting winter braise. If you want something tart that keeps for months, whip up a jar of pickled green beans, aka dilly beans, that are just as crunchy and delightful as pickled cucumbers. Though green beans are fresher in the summer and early fall, frozen green beans will work if you can't get your hands on fresh (and are working with a recipe where texture isn't as important). Whatever preparation you prefer, we can all fit more green beans in our sides rotation and make this veggie the star it deserves to be.