Crop Spot: Green Beans

Green beans are a summertime favorite because of their delicious flavor, great texture, and flexibility – you can roast, boil, deep fry, sautee, pickle, or serve them raw! They’re a great crop for the home gardener because they’re easy to grow and yield a generous harvest!

Green Beans

Green Beans vs String Beans

Green beans and string beans are simply two names for the same vegetable. Sometimes folks call them snap beans to distinguish them from dry or fresh shell beans.

The name string bean comes from the tough string found inside the bean pod. Although many modern varieties are now stringless, green beans are still referred to as string beans in different parts of the country.

Pole Beans vs Bush Beans

Green beans are split into two categories based on growing habits: pole beans and bush beans. Pole beans are a vining plant, which means they need vertical support to thrive. As the name implies, bush beans grow lower to the ground and form branches like a bush.

There are benefits to growing both types of beans. Pole beans require a small amount of work upfront since they need a structure on which to climb. Their small footprint and vertical growing pattern make them an efficient crop for a small growing space. Furthermore, the fruits are higher off the ground, which makes harvesting the beans easier and less taxing on the knees and back.

Bush beans don’t require any support to grow, but need to be harvested while kneeling or bent over which can make for hard work!

The taste of pole and bush beans is indistinguishable. The shape of the beans may be slightly different, but that’s due to the specific variety of the bean rather than its growing habit. 

Green Bean Colors

“Green” beans are not always green; many varieties produce fruit in shades ranging from dark to light green, yellow to purple, and even some variegated varieties that are pale yellow and purple.

It may be shocking to see a dark purple bean, but the flavor is the same as a standard green bean. Cook them to discover a fun surprise (spoiler: they turn green)!! Don’t be afraid to try different types of beans found at the market or in a CSA program this season.

What are the stages of a green bean plant’s growth?

Green beans grow best directly seeded into the soil when the danger of frost has passed, and will germinate in a few days with a little sunshine and water!

A bean plant emerges from the soil initially with two leaves called cotyledons. The next leaves that appear are called “true leaves,” which have a different shape than the cotyledon but resemble the shape of the leaves that will appear as the bean plant matures.

As the plant leafs out, small flowers appear that are pollinated and turn into beans! Beans grow incredibly fast – once fruit comes on, it’s best to harvest daily or every other day to ensure the beans don’t get too big. 

When beans stay on the plant too long, the string along the spine of the pod can become tough and the seeds inside the bean pod get hard and dry. If the beans are left on the plant until they are fully dried out, the seeds can be saved and replanted the following year.

Canning Green Beans

Green beans can be preserved with either a water bath or pressure canner. For novice canners, explore the Ball and Food In Jars to learn the basics and more. Make sure to follow instructions carefully to process produce safely!

Dilly beans are a tasty summer snack and a great way to save extra beans for later without using a pressure canner. For a spicier version, try out this recipe!

If canning isn’t an interest or possibility, beans can also be frozen. Destem the pods, blanche them, and place them in freezer bags to enjoy later.

Chinese Garlic Green Beans Recipe

Ready for a new weeknight recipe for green beans? Try out this quick one from Omnivore’s Cookbook that uses only 8 ingredients and takes 22 minutes!

Chinese Garlic Green Bean Recipe from Omnivore’s Cookbook

Further Reading & Recipes

Carrie Hause is the Digital Media Specialist for Taste the Local Difference. Contact her at [email protected].