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Bush or pole, beans are nutritious addition to home garden
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Bush or pole, beans are nutritious addition to home garden

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Green beans were one of our earliest cultivated plants, tracing their beginnings to Central and South America where they were an original member of the “Three-Sisters,”  a companion planting of the first domesticated crops of maize (corn) and winter squash.

These became the three main agricultural crops used for trade and food for Native North Americans.

Green beans were once referred to as string beans because of the long fibrous thread along the pod seams, but Calvin Keeney developed a stringless bean in 1894, and breeders have continued with stringless ever since.

Beans are a good addition to the home garden because they are a good source of fiber, antioxidants and vitamin A, C and K. 

Basic types:

• Bush beans are the workhorse of the garden and the mainstay in the kitchen. They are compact and fit well into both small garden patches or patio containers fitted with cages.

• Pole beans with their vining habits and can be trained up poles, trellises, netting, or supportive structures such as a teepee. With proper support pole beans can also be grown in containers.

• Filet beans or Haricots Vert (French green beans) are distinguished by elegant ultra-slim pods. Due to their delicate appearance, filet beans are gaining in popularity with foodies and chefs. Filet beans come in both bush and pole bean types.

• Dried or shelling beans are grown for their edible seeds rather than edible pods. Pinto beans, kidney beans, and black beans fall into this category.

Gardening tips

Beans are warm-weather vegetables and are best planted after soil temperatures reach 70F.

Avoid sowing too early in the season. Cool wet soils can lead to rot.

Beans thrive with at least eight hours of daily sun, moderate fertility, and well-drained soil.

Beans have shallow roots, weed carefully to prevent damage to the root system.

Mulch the soil around the bean plant; consistent moisture results in the highest quality harvests.

Quick to mature, harvests can begin 50-60 days after sowing.

Bush beans typically grow 12 to 24 inches tall and produce harvests for about 3 weeks.

Succession sowing of bush beans every 2-3 weeks will produce delicious beans all season.

Pole beans have a long harvest season, generally lasting about six to eight weeks.

Harvest frequently to encourage pod production.

Pole beans can quickly grow a lush privacy wall around porches or patios.

Yellow wax beans lack chlorophyll and will retain their beautiful golden color when cooked.

Purple beans contain anthocyanins (the purple pigment) that disappear when beans are cooked.

Harvesting tips:

A good indication of when to harvest is to reference the days to maturity for the specific variety. Pick green beans when pods are young and tender, just before the seeds begin to swell. Beans will “snap” when you bend and break them. If they are immature, they won’t snap!

Fresh unwashed green beans should remain fresh for up to a week when stored in a reusable container or plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Versatile in culinary preparation, garden beans can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, stir-fried, grilled, or baked. For the best eating experience, cooked green beans should still have a crisp texture and an appetizing bright green color.

Green beans pair well with a variety of herbs, spices, and flavors. Parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme, a splash of lemon juice, or a pat of butter are very popular additions to bean dishes. You can’t go wrong with the simple addition of garlic and onions. There are some who swear green beans cry out for bacon bits or a dollop of bacon grease added to the cooking pot.

Green beans are bred for eating fresh or processing/preserving. Some varieties are well suited for both. Processing green beans are better able to retain their beautiful color and texture for canning, pickling, and freezing. If you look forward to gifting out jars of pickled green beans, a processing green bean will yield you the best results.

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