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Romano beans are a form of flat snap bean which originated in Italy. Many Italians cook with these beans when they are in season during the summer months, and they are also cultivated in other regions of the world. Specialty grocers and farmers' markets sometimes carry them in the summer, and they can also be grown at home, assuming you live in an area with a Mediterranean climate.
Like other snap beans, Romano beans are supposed to be eaten whole. They are considered ripe when they make a crisp “snap” if they are broken in half, and they have a very mild flavor and a tender texture. These beans are often braised with other summer vegetables and eaten as a side dish, and they can also be added to soups, stews, stir fries, and assortment of other dishes. You may also hear these legumes referred to as Italian flat beans or Italian snap beans, but don't confuse them with fava beans, which are sometimes labeled as “Italian broad beans.”
These snap beans are flattened, rather than rounded, as one might expect. To use Romano beans, cooks have to snap or trim off the ends and rinse the pods to remove any dirt from the field. These beans can be lightly cooked to retain their crunchy texture, or cooked until they are extremely tender. However, overcooking will cause the beans to turn into a tasteless mush, so cooks should take care when preparing them in braised and other long-cooked dishes.
In addition to being available in classic green, Romanos also come in yellow and purple, for cooks who like to play around with different colors in their cooking. When selecting Romano beans in the market, cooks should look for crisp specimens with even coloration and no soft spots or signs of mold. Limp, listless beans should be avoided, and the beans should be stored in paper bags and used within a few days for best results. These legumes can also be pickled.
To grow Romano beans, gardeners should obtain seeds from a garden store or a friend, and start them indoors in the late spring. Once the seedlings have established themselves, they can be planted outdoors after the last chance of frost in a warm spot. Romano beans are climbers, so they will need strings or a trellis to grow, and they appreciate medium-level watering which keeps the soil moist, but not wet.