String beans, green beans, snap beans, French beans, wax beans, whatever you want to call them, are a great foundational food to grow for new or seasoned gardeners alike. *I will be calling them green beans- green beans are considered any bean that is ate with its pod. (Versus shelling beans)
Growing beans is pretty easy, especially bush beans, pole beans do take a little longer and require a bit more patience. Green beans produce throughout summer into fall with lots to harvest, especially when you succession sow. They are best for growing zones 3-11. You can grow bush varieties or pole varieties depending on your space and needs. They are a warm season annual that have origins in South Mexico and Central America. Green beans come in a variety of colors, green, purple, yellow, etc. There are varieties that start out purple on the plant, but when cooked they turn green. These are a great choice for those with children or selective eaters. Bush beans can range in height from 10-24 inches, while pole beans can reach heights of 8-15 feet tall! They don’t take up too much space width wise, both coming in under 12 inches. You definitely need a trellis if growing pole beans. They do look amazing grown on a trellis with the flowers and beans hanging down. You’ll want to plant seeds about 1 inch deep in spring for summer into fall harvests. Wait until soil temperatures are ideally around 65ºF, if it’s too cold they will not germinate. You can soak seeds for 30-ish minutes before sowing to help aid germination, I don’t do this, but some do. Succession plant your beans about every 10 days to 3 weeks throughout summer. As for spacing in a square foot garden or intensive planting style space your beans about 4 inches apart. Even with intensive planting styles you will want to make sure there is enough airflow to help stave off disease. If your summer temperatures get too hot, you may want to consider shading your beans, blossoms can drop off when it is too hot. Harvest daily to encourage new flowers and beans to grow. You’ll know they are ready to harvest when they are about the thickness of a pencil. (I always say harvest often for most food producing plants as well as certain flowers to encourage more growth.) *Always use scissors or pruners instead of pulling on your plants when harvesting.
You can store beans in your fridge for about a week to a week, but I encourage you to use them much sooner, ideally the same day to maximize nutrition and lessen respiration/aging. If you have too many or need to not use them right away, you can blanch and freeze them for approximately 3 months. The smaller the bean the more tender it will be. The simplest way to eat them is right in the garden as you harvest. They are great added to almost any seasonal meal. You can eat them raw or slightly cooked. Green beans are fantastic sautéed, roasted, steamed or stir fried. I prefer to eat them straight from the plant, but the ones that do make it into the house are usually added to a stir fry or garden salad. I like to cut them on the diagonal for a bit of fun and a “more special/fancy” look. Though you could leave them as is and lightly grill them (think asparagus), then toss with olive oil and fresh herbs with a bit of salt and pepper. Green beans pair well with many other flavors. Stand out flavor pairings include: garlic, lemon, ginger, curry, mushrooms, almonds, onions, shallots, potatoes, vinegars, tomatoes and pine nuts just to name a few. To easily prep your beans, line them up stem sides together and cut the stem off. *Always use the bear claw technique when cutting your veg. (Hold your fingers so that your tips are folded under and the side of the knife gently brushes against the middle part of your fingers as a guide in a rolling motion, not a chopping motion.) I will be making a short video to demonstrate this knife skill for safety in the kitchen and ease of cutting quickly. You can also ferment or pickle your greens beans for added benefits for your microbiome.
Green beans are considered an excellent source of vitamin K. (Think bone mineralization) They are also considered a very good source of vitamin B2, vitamin C, folate, dietary fiber and manganese. They contain a high level of phytonutrients that act as antioxidants. With these antioxidants they also act as anti inflammatories.
You can’t go wrong with growing either bush or pole beans. Bush beans are great for containers and both do well in any garden with proper spacing and trellising if needed. Aim for simple and as close to nature in your preparation of your green beans for the best taste and nutritional benefits. You’ll be so happy you grew them!
If you need help with your beans or anything else in your kitchen garden, book an online consult with me, held over Zoom to address your most pressing garden questions.
Links to seeds I have personally grown with success:
*I have had great success over the years with Botanical Interests seeds of all kinds. They are local to me and I encourage you to find local seed suppliers where you live.
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