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What are Italian Flat Beans?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 July 2014
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Italian flat beans are a form of bean with broad, flattened pods. They strongly resemble common green beans, except that they tend to be larger and flatter. Many cooks use them interchangeably with string or green beans, and some Italian recipes call specifically for the use of these beans. Specialty produce companies and some markets will carry flat beans when in season, and they can also be grown at home.

Like other beans, Italian flat beans come in two forms. The first, green bean form is eaten whole, pod and all. It is crispy and crunchy, with a mild beany flavor, and they perform best when they are very lightly cooked. Overcooked beans can get mushy and dull in flavor. They can also be allowed to mature on the vine, in which case the pods wither and split to reveal dried beans. In this form, they are sometimes called Romano beans, and they have more nutritional value, while also requiring a long cooking time to soften into digestibility.

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When selecting Italian flat beans in green form, consumers should look for crisp pods which snap easily. The beans may be green or purple, depending on regional varieties. Floppy or discolored beans are unsuitable, and they should be discarded. They can be stored under refrigeration for several days until use, or they can be canned like other green beans for year-round use. They can be steamed, briefly fried, or boiled, and some people include them in casseroles and other dishes for a zesty color and texture.

Dried beans can be used in any recipe that calls for beans. They are brown with black splotches, and like other beans they are high in protein. Some recipes such as soups and casseroles call specifically for Romano beans, and they can be used to make chili and other similar dishes from around the world. Remember to cook they until they are soft and breaking apart, to ensure that they are digestible.

To grow Italian flat beans, start seedlings in a greenhouse or plant the seeds directly into moist soil in fair weather. They should be planted in mid-spring, to ensure that they will mature in the summer. Make sure to provide a trellis for the vines to climb as they grow. You can either harvest the beans in green form for eating fresh, or you can let them dry on the vine so that you have dried beans.

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anon289436
Post 6

@musicshaman: These are best eaten fresh. Steamed, then roasted in the oven in a little olive oil and garlic, or sauteed. I've never cooked fresh green beans in a slow cooker. They simply aren't suited to long cooking as far as I know. In the deep south, they may be cooked in a pot with a ham hock for a long time, like collards, but I can't vouch for that.

anon165827
Post 5

Some years ago I was given some bean seeds which were a climbing variety. They were not round beans like Blackhilde, but a flat purple bean like a runner bean. The bean seeds were somewhat smaller than a runner bean seeds. They had pretty purple blooms and the resulting beans were flat.

When sliced in the normal way you would slice runner beans and cooked, they turned green. He told me they were American black beans but I doubt if this was the real name. Perhaps they came from America initially. I have also been told they may be a type of French flat bean. Has anyone heard of them or where I can obtain them? -- Kathie

anon162652
Post 4

Years ago an Italian gave me some Italian beans seeds for my garden. They are delicious but I cannot fine the seeds to plant this year. Please help.

EarlyForest
Post 3

The farmer's market near me always has fresh Italian beans in season, and I love them. Something about that mild flavor just gets me every time!

closerfan12
Post 2

@musicshaman -- I think that you could, but I don't know it you'd want to.

Like the article says, those things do tend to get pretty mushy if you overcook them.

Now if you wanted to try it with Romano beans you might have better luck, since they take so much longer to cook.

If you're looking for an easy veggie recipe with beans, why don't you try a white bean salad? That's my old standby when I don't have time to cook.

musicshaman
Post 1

Can you cook Italian flat beans in a slow cooker or crock pot?

I'm looking for some no-fuss vegetarian recipes before I go back to college, and these beans seem like they'd be really good in the slow cooker.

Any voice of experience out there for me?

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