Discover Fresh Green Beans

Skip the mass-produced versions and experience the exceptional flavors and textures of garden-fresh green beans.

| August/September 2006

  • Liana
    Most beans are members of the same species, Phaseolus vulgaris, but ‘Liana’ is a different, more heat-tolerant species, Vigna unguiculata, called yard-long beans.
    Pete Nutile/Johnny’s Selected Seeds
  • Kwintus
    ‘Kwintus’ is an example of a flat-podded pole bean that can be picked young or left on the vine to mature for a more robust flavor.
    David Cavagnaro
  • fresh green beans - green and yellow bean assortment
    Easy-to-grow fresh green beans ask only for abundant sun, warm soil and ample moisture to produce well.
    Photo by Walter Chandoha
  • RoyalBurgandy
    ‘Royal Burgandy’ is a round-podded wax bean that bears purple pods, which turn green when cooked.
    David Cavagnaro
  • Trellis
    Pole beans grow long vines and require a trellis.
    Walter Chandoha
  • fresh green beans - tray of heirloom beans
    These heirloom beans have colorful pods and equally colorful names, such as ‘Lazy Housewife,’ ‘Hickman,’ ‘Tennessee Indian Purple’ and ‘Blue Coco.’
    David Cavagnaro

  • Liana
  • Kwintus
  • fresh green beans - green and yellow bean assortment
  • RoyalBurgandy
  • Trellis
  • fresh green beans - tray of heirloom beans

On any day of the year, you may find two types of fresh green beans at your local supermarket. The ones with round pods will be labeled “snap beans,” and those with flat pods will be sold as “pole beans.” With rare exceptions, these are poor excuses for green beans.

Bred to be tough enough for long-distance shipping, mass-produced green beans typically lack sweetness, have lost all hint of their inherent snap and often are tinged with off-flavors — eating them raw is a lot like chewing wet cardboard. But freshly harvested, garden-grown beans, or those purchased at your local farmers market, are wonderfully different — subtly sweet with a crisp, yet tender, texture.

“There aren’t that many people who have actually experienced a really good green bean,” says Ellen Polishuk, who manages 180 acres of sustainably grown vegetables at Potomac Vegetable Farms in Purcellville, Va.

Many people who don’t like vegetables do like green beans. Polishuk says her 9-year-old son prefers to eat them raw, while others love the meltingly rich flavor of pole beans cooked for hours or used in a savory casserole. Want to make a quick visit to green bean heaven? Sauté a freshly picked batch with olive oil, onions and garlic, then sprinkle chopped basil and parmesan cheese over the hot beans. One bite and you may never eat canned green beans again.

If you’re buying green beans from a local vendor, try to find one that sells them loose so you can handpick the best beans. Look for beans that snap when you bend them, are free of spots and bruises, and have a vivid color, velvety feel and firm texture.

Growing green beans provides endless opportunities to explore varieties with remarkable flavors, textures and colors that you’ll never find at the store. And while you might think it’s too late to grow your own crop this year, you can plant fast-growing beans eight to 10 weeks before your first fall frost. You’ll need a fast-maturing bush variety for fall planting, but fall-grown beans often are exceptionally sweet. Pest pressure on green beans declines in late summer too, and because green beans make only modest demands on the soil, they are a great follow-up crop to heavy feeders such as spinach, sweet corn or broccoli.

11/17/2007 2:06:01 PM

The best article on beans I have ever read; had great info on Italian beans that most others don't get into. thanks Robert



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