Fresh Shelling Beans are Summer's Most Underrated Produce

Take advantage of these colorful beauties while they're in season

Shelling Beans
Aren't they pretty?Matt Taylor-Gross

In summertime, fresh shelling beans (once affectionately called "shellies" in the South) put sides, dips, and soups on the table in no time. Vibrantly colored and delightfully patterned, fresh beans also have a subtle sweetness and tenderness that dried ones lack. They don't need to be soaked before simmering and can be ready to eat in about 10 minutes.

To dress them up, simmer with aromatics like onions, leeks, or fresh ginger, and toss them in olive oil flavored with toasted garlic, fresh marjoram leaves, or citrus zest.

Beans can be refrigerated in their pods for two to three days, or up to a week once shelled. At the end of the season, try buying them in bulk, shelling them, and stocking your freezer.

How to Shop for Shell Beans

  • Look for plump pods and pinch them to make sure they're housing full-size beans.
  • Beware of punctures, signs that insects have been poking around.
  • Yellowish pods are overmature; their beans should be cooked soon after purchase. Brownish pods are way past their prime.
  • Cranberry beans are quite popular, but also seek out scarlet runner beans, pigeon peas, or dragon tongue beans at farmers' markets.