The bean is a tender, warm season vegetable that ranks second to tomato in popularity in home gardens.
Bush Beans stand erect without support. They yield well and require the least amount of work. Green bush beans were formerly called "string beans" because fiber developed along the seams of the pods. Plant breeders have reduced these fibers through selection and green beans are now referred to as "snap beans."
Pole Beans climb supports and are easily harvested.
Bush Bean Varieties
Blue Lake 274 (58 days to harvest; plump, tender pods; slow-developing seeds; resistant to bean mosaic)
Bush Kentucky Wonder (57 days; long, flattened pods)
Derby (57 days; 1990 AAS winner; slim, tender, prolific; excellent pods)
Pole Bean Varieties
Blue Lake(65 days to harvest; oval, straight, stringless, juicy and tender pods; resistant to bean mosaic)
Kentucky Blue (65 days; AAS Winner; round; 7 inch pods)
Kentucky Wonder (65 days; fine flavor, 9 inch pods in clusters)
When To Plant
Beans are sensitive to cold temperatures and frost. They should be planted after all danger of frost is past in the spring (May 15th in Chicagoland). If the soil has warmed before the average last-frost date, an early planting may be made a week to 10 days before this date. You can assure yourself a continuous supply of snap beans by planting every 2 to 4 weeks until early August.
Spacing & Depth
Plant seeds of all varieties one inch deep. Plant seeds of bush beans 2 to 4 inches apart in rows at least 18 to 24 inches apart. Plant seeds of pole beans 4 to 6 inches apart in rows 30 to 36 inches apart; or in hills (four to six seeds per hill) 30 inches apart, with 30 inches between rows.
Seeds of most varieties tend to crack and germinate poorly if the soil's moisture content is too high. For this reason, never soak bean seed before planting. Instead water just after planting or plant right before a heavy rain.
Beans have shallow roots and frequent shallow cultivation and hoeing are necessary to control small weeds and grasses. Because bean plants have fairly weak root systems, deep, close cultivation injures the plant roots, delays harvest and reduces yields.
Harvest when the pods are firm, crisp and fully elongated, but before the seed within the pod has developed significantly. Pick beans after the dew is off the plants, and they are thoroughly dry. Picking beans from wet plants can spread bean bacterial blight, a disease that seriously damages the plants. Be careful not to break the stems or branches, which are brittle on most bean varieties. The bean plant continues to form new flowers and produces more beans if pods are continually removed before the seeds mature.
The bean mosaic diseases cause plants to turn a yellowish green and produce few or no pods. The leaves on infected plants are a mottled yellow and are usually irregularly shaped. The only satisfactory control for these diseases is to use mosaic-resistant bean varieties.
Bright yellow or brown spots on the leaves or water-soaked spots on the pods are signs of bacterial bean blight. Bacterial blight is best controlled by planting disease-free seed; avoiding contact with wet bean plants; and removing all bean debris from the garden.
Questions & Answers
Q. My beans appear healthy, but not many beans have formed. Why not?
A. The blossoms drop and fail to form pods during periods of hot, dry winds.
Q. Is it a good practice to plant pole beans at the base of corn plant for double cropping?
A. No. Neither crop can reach its maximum potential. Weed control becomes difficult and cornstalks offer weak support when the beans are maturing.
Q. Is it necessary to plant beans in a different area of the garden each year?
A. Yes. Beans are subject to diseases that may carry over in the soil to reinfect the following bean crop.
Q. Will bean varieties cross in my garden?
A. Because the flowers are largely self-pollinated, bean varieties usually do not cross. These crosses show up only when seed is saved from cross-pollinated flowers. In any event, you should obtain new seeds each year to avoid seedborne diseases.
Q. Can I use beans from my garden that have matured past the green, edible stage?
A. Yes. Snap beans (pole or bush) may be harvested for shellouts and for dry beans; and lima beans may be harvested for butter beans.
Q. Why do some snap bean varieties have white seeds?
A. Most bean varieties are developed for the canning and freezing industry. When varieties with colored seeds are used, the cooking water is slightly off-color. White seed is preferred because it does not discolor the cooking water.
Q. What are the fuzzy, bright yellow insects on my bean plants?
A. These are larvae of the Mexican bean beetle. The adult resembles a large ladybug. The larvae do the most damage. They are generally not a serious problem, but they occasionally reach damaging numbers, particularly early in the season.
Selection & Storage
Legume is the prosaic name for beans. It covers all the podded plants. Fresh beans (as opposed to dried) vary in color, shape and length of pod. Fresh beans include green beans, Chinese long beans, tiny green beans (Haricot) and Fava beans, to name a few. This section will focus on bush beans and pole beans which are common garden varieties.
Harvest fresh beans before they become tough and stingy. If you can see the bulge of a developing bean through the green pod, the bean is over-mature and should be shelled (except pole beans). At this stage the pod is too tough to eat. Planting garden beans in two week intervals helps to eliminate having all the beans ready for harvest at the same time.
Fresh pole beans and bush beans can be stored, unwashed in plastic bags in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Do not wash them before storing. Wet beans will develop black spots and decay quickly. Wash beans just before preparation.
Nutritional Value & Health Benefits
Snap beans, string beans, and pole beans are the immature pod and beans of dried legumes. All of these will mature to produce fat seeds and tough inedible pods. The nutritional profile of mature dried beans is very different from that of green beans. Green beans are a good source of carbohydrates. They are a moderate source of protein, dietary fiber, Vitamin C and beta carotene. The beta carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body. Green beans also contain small amounts of calcium and other trace nutrients.
Nutrition Facts (1/2 cup fresh cooked fresh green beans)
Dietary fiber 1.6 grams
Protein 1 gram
Carbohydrates 3.5 mg
Vitamin A 340 IU
Vitamin C 7.5 mg
Folic Acid 21 mg
Calcium 31.5 mg
Iron .4 mg
Potassium 94.5 mg
Preparation & Serving
Tiny immature green beans from any variety are delicious served raw in fresh salads. They are tender and mildly flavored. Mature green beans need to be cooked or blanched before eating. Only the stem end needs to be removed. Wash beans under cold running water and drain. Green beans retain color and nutritional value best if they are cooked whole. Cooking time should always be brief.
Green beans can be frozen, dried or canned. Immature beans retain more color and undergo less texture and flavor loss during freezing. All vegetables must be blanched before freezing. Unblanched vegetables quickly become tough and suffer huge nutrient and color loss. Vegetables naturally contain an active enzyme that causes deterioration of plant cells, even during freezing. Blanching before freezing retards the enzyme activity.
Freezing does not improve the quality of any vegetable. Freezing actually can magnify undesirable characteristics. For instance, woodiness in stalks become more noticeable upon thawing. Select vegetables grown under favorable conditions and prepare for freezing as soon after picking as possible. Vegetables at peak quality for eating will produce best results in the freezer.
In a blanching pot or large pot with a tight fitting lid, bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil.
Meanwhile, wash beans, trim stem ends and cut into1-inch pieces or leave whole.
Blanch no more than one pound at a time. Add beans to boiling water and immediately cover with a tight fitting lid.
Start timing immediately and blanch for four minutes.
Prepare an ice water bath in a large 5-quart container or the sink.
Remove beans from water with slotted a spoon or blanching basket.
Immerse in the ice water bath for five minutes or until cooled. If you do not have ice, use several changes of cold water or running cold water. Remove and drain.
Pack cold beans in zip-closure freezer bags or freezer containers. Squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing bags.
Label and date each container or bag. Immediately place in the freezer, allowing an inch of space around each container until it is frozen. Freeze for up to one year at 0 degrees F. or below.
Blanching water can be used over and over again. Add more water if necessary. Remember to always bring water back to a rolling boil before blanching more vegetables.
Herbs and spices that compliment green beans include dill, mint, basil, sage, thyme, summer savory, garlic, onions and dry mustard.
Steamed Green Beans with Lemony Vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons fat-free yogurt
- 1 tablespoon chives or green onion with green top, finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon each, salt and black pepper
- 1/2 cup canola oil or safflower oil
In a small bowl combine parsley, lemon juice, yogurt, and chives. Set bowl on a wet towel to avoid slippage. Add oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly until vinaigrette is blended. Chill.
Steamed Green Beans
- 1 pound fresh green beans, leave whole
- 1/2 cup red pepper, cut into julienne strips
Wash green beans and remove the stem end only, leave whole. Steam or blanch green beans for 3 minutes. Toss with julienne red pepper. Toss green beans and red peppers with enough vinaigrette to coat vegetables, about 1/3 cup. Serve warm. Leftover vinaigrette can be used as a salad dressing. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Green Beans with Tomatoes
- 1-1/2 pounds fresh green beans
- 1 large ripe tomato, cored and chopped
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and cut into julienne strips
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 pods of okra (optional) or one white potato cubed
- salt and pepper to taste
Wash green beans and trim stem end, set aside. Wash core and chop tomato, no need to remove skin. Heat olive oil in a nonstick pan. Add onions and saute for one minute Add garlic and tomatoes, continue to cook for one minute. Add green beans, toss, add okra or potato, season with salt and pepper. Add in a cup of water, cover quickly and simmer for 10 minutes or until potato is tender. Check potato by pricking with a fork. Serve hot. Makes 6 servings.