What you see: Parts of your green beans look “water soaked.”
What it is: Likely the result of rough handling, maybe freezing damage.
Eat or toss: Inspect for any signs of decay (like soft, squishy or slimy areas). If they otherwise look and smell normal, they should be good to eat. (The green beans pictured here were fine; they only look a little shimmery because they had just been rinsed.)
Dark, almost translucent areas on green beans
Dark green, maybe even translucent areas or spots on your green beans may not look ideal, but the beans are probably fine. They may have been banged around a bit, or perhaps rested at the bottom of a stack, suffering a spate of mild green bean bruises under the weight of their fellow skinny green veggies.
When green beans are handled roughly, frozen, or submerged in hot water, their cells can weaken and leak water and minerals. That liquid is contained within the bean as long as the outer cells remain intact. The discolored blobs you see here are like mini floods of cellular juices, Jorge Fonseca, a post-harvest scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture explained.
Beans with water-soaked areas are still perfectly edible. But their tissues have been weakened, making them more susceptible to decay, especially if they are stored for an extended period of time. So, do a quick check for any sliminess, squishiness and off odors, all of which are calling cards of spoilage microbes. If you don’t detect any, go ahead and prepare your beans as usual.
“I would only worry about it if the beans have sat a long time after harvest,” said Jim Myers, a horticulture professor at Oregon State University. “Otherwise, it doesn’t affect the appearance or taste once they are cooked.”
Once you cook the beans, the water soaked or translucent areas will most likely disappear (or, rather, the entire bean will look a little water soaked; consider how all green beans look more intensely green and less dull after cooking). If you’re still worried, you can do a quick taste test before eating. For what it’s worth, we ate the beans pictured above here at EatOrToss headquarters and they were perfectly fine.
Myers, who breeds beans for both the fresh and frozen markets, said he rarely sees this type of injury on hand-picked beans, like the kind you might find at a farmers market. Indeed, the beans pictured in this post came from a grocery delivery service and were packaged. Myers suspected they might have been harvested by machine, which would have made them more likely to suffer bruises. According to the Postharvest Center at the University of California, damage from shipping containers can also lead to this kind of injury.
While you might find beans with water-soaked areas unappealing, anytime you eat previously frozen green beans, you’re eating beans that probably once sported these darker spots and smudges. Myers said that beans destined for the frozen market are often mechanically harvested and bruised a little on the way. But once they are blanched in hot water, a key step that always occurs shortly after harvest and before freezing, you can’t detect the bruised area.
“When they are blanched, the whole bean takes on a water-soaked appearance and the spots disappear,” he wrote.
- Jim Myers. Professor, Vegetable Breeding and Genetics. Oregon State University. College of Agricultural Sciences. Department of Horticulture.
- Jorge Fonseca. Research Leader. Food Quality Laboratory, Beltsville, Md. Agricultural Research Service. United States Department of Agriculture.
- Beans, snap. Vegetable Produce Facts. Postharvest Center at the University of California
- Post-harvest management of snap bean for quality and safety assurance Guidance for horticultural supply chain stakeholders. Edralina P. Serrano, Consultant, FAO and Rosa Rolle, Senior Enterprise Development Officer, FAO. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.