Closely related to green beans, wax beans differ in their color, which can be vibrant yellow or dark purple and, as their name suggests, in that their texture is slightly waxier. Like green beans, wax beans are enjoyed whole with pod and seeds, and they taste mild and fresh with sweet, grassy overtones.
Also like green beans, wax beans appear at markets during the early to mid-summer. Wax beans make a colorful side dish steamed or sautéed with butter or olive oil. They are ideal in vegetable salads, pairing well with potatoes, beets, corn, and peas. They can be added to, or substituted for, green beans in recipes.
Purchasing wax beans is much like purchasing green beans. Look for beans that are evenly colored, free of brown spots, and snap when broken. The skin of their pods will be thinner and more velvety, and depending on their variety, choose ones that are light to deep yellow or dark purple.
Wrap wax beans in dry paper towels and refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to 3 days.
Rinse the beans under cold running water. Snap off the pointy stem ends and remove any tough strings that run along the length of the bean. Yellow wax beans retain their color best when cooked whole at a high temperature for a short period of time. The color of purple beans will fade slightly when cooked.