Green beans are beans eaten in their pod stage—that is, before they’ve become mature seeds, which must be shelled and cooked—and are easier to digest than dried beans. Not just green, these legumes can be found in a variety of colors, including yellow and purple.
Look for crisp, firm green beans in the market in the summer and fall; if they’re limp and rubbery, they’ve passed their prime. Most green beans can be eaten whole, raw in salads or cooked in soups, stir-fries, and other dishes. String beans have a fibrous string running along them, which should be removed before eating, in contrast to snap beans, which are usually stringless.