Most of us know and agree on what “green beans” mean — i.e. what they look and generally taste like. (We also know that beans meanz Heinz — and that’s another story altogether.) But those grass-colored finger-shaped legumes have a lot of names — and not just because of the almost infinite varieties of bean, but also thanks to the inability of the Brits and Yanks to agree on what they should call them (even among their fellow citizens).In a nutshell — or maybe in a pea-pod — I think I’ve worked out how the naming of green beans divides itself geographically and botanically, as outlined below. But please correct me if I’m wrong or if I’ve missed any bean-monikers of either the British or the American kind.
U.S.: green beans or string beans. Snap beans in the northeastern and western U.S.
UK: green beans, or just beans.
U.S.: string beans, green beans
UK: French beans, haricots verts, fine beans, French filet beans, dwarf beans, dwarf French beans
(all longer and slimmer than regular green beans above, and more flavorful, tender and crisp)
Also Phaseolus vulgaris
U.S.: string beans, green beans, stick beans, pole beans, trellis beans
UK: runner beans
Then there are the snow peas (AmE), sugar peas (AmE), snap peas (AmE), sugar snap peas (BritE — and AmE?) and mangetouts (French for “eat all”, and BritE): these are all basically peas-in-pods masquerading as beans, albeit with wider girths. The snow pea’s pod is round and the snap pea’s is flat; the mangetout — in keeping with its name — covers them all.
And then there are the rounder beans — ie. not in the green bean family. I get a bit lost here, but I’m pretty sure the Americans call navy beans what the Brits call haricot beans; the American fava bean is known as a broad bean in the UK. Lima beans in the States are better known as butter beans in the UK, and kidney beans are known as such on both sides of the Atlantic — but also as red beans in the U.S. How are we doing here? Pinto beans are very popular in the States, and you might eat some flageolet beans when you’re in France. Anyone know what a wax bean is?
Here’s a brainteaser for you: which bean is given different names by Yanks and Brits when served or canned plain, but has a single cross-Atlantic name when prepared in a particular recipe? Answers on a postcard (aka in the comments section below).