How to Grow Beans

Growing beans is easy; figuring out the different varieties and when to harvest for which type of bean you want is what I found difficult. It’s definitely worth it, though. Very productive for the very little room they take up in the garden, and they are good for the soil while attracting pollinators. Bees love them! They can also be useful for providing shade screens for other plants. As far as pests go, I have problems with spider mite…and powdery mildew – but I’m working on a method to keep those two under control.

Botanical Information

Taxonomy

History

Physical Description

Bean Types and Varieties

Categorization

The way that the family of beans is organized was pretty confusing to me. It seems that there are a bunch of different names for the same type of bean (french, snap, string, kenya, kidney, haricot, borlotti, cannellini, and flageolet are all the same type of bean!!), although they are differentiated by how long they are left on the plant, but then those all of various names belonging to the same one. Hopefully writing this helps straighten out my understanding of the bean – and maybe somebody else’s too.

Major Classifications

Here are the major groupings of bean types. Most of these types are then broken down into further sub-classifications, as well as having names for the bean depending on how long it has been left on the vine to ripen.

  1. French Beans:
    • include snap beans, string beans, kidney beans, etc
    • not really french at all; native to the Americas
    • wind-pollinated, so they fruit more reliably than runner beans (which are insect reliant)
    • Sub classifications based on ripeness, or time left on vine:
      • green beans: unripe french beans; can be picked anytime before their beans inside start to show; sweet and tender
      • kidney beans (aka haricot beans): left to ripen fully on the plant; when dried they can store for many months
      • cannellini beans (aka flageolet beans): half-ripe french beans; shelled and eaten like peas
    • Sub classifications based on color
      • borlotti beans (aka cranberry beans, borlotto, crab eye, roman, romano, rosecoco, saluggia) are white with red spots or splotches, sometimes most of the bean will be red; can be used interchangeably with pinto beans; can be shelled and eaten as cannellini or left on the plant to ripen fully and eaten as kidney beans
      • green
      • yellow
      • gold
      • purple
      • red
      • multicolored
    • Sub classifications based on growth habit:
      • filet beans (aka fine) are bean pods that grow long and thin
      • pole beans (aka climbers) are usually indeterminate with a continuous harvest; need something to climb up
      • bush beans (aka dwarf beans): usually are determinate, with just one big harvest
      • semi-dwarf beans: kinda bushy, kinda climbing
  2. Runner Beans:
    • insect pollinated
    • notorious for producing a glut, so don’t plant too many
    • pick them young; they turn tough and stringy as they stay on the vine
    • very easy to grow
    • Sub Classifications based on growth habit:
      • pole beans (also known as climbers)
      • dwarf bush beans
    • Colorsof runner beans available:
      • scarlet (red flower produces red or purple speckled beans)
      • white (white flowers produce white beans)
      • multicolored, spotted or streaked
      • black
  3. Broad Beans are sub categorized by the number of beans in the pod:
    • longpod broad beans: 8 beans in the pod, at least traditionally
    • windsors broad beans: 4 beans in the pod
    • modernbroad beans: 5-7 beans per pod
      • produce shorter plants
      • their beans are more tender
    • there are also dwarf broad beans that are great for container growing
  4. Lima Beans
    • also known as butter beans
    • flat pods with beans that are large, green or white
    • tropical plants that require warm soil temperatures for germinating and grow best in areas with hot summers and full sun
    • follow the growing recommendations for french beans or runner beans
    • sub-classifications based on growth habit:
      • dwarf
      • pole beans (or climbers)
  5. Black-eyed Peas
    • aka: black-eyed beans, southern peas, crowder peas, cowpeas, field peas
    • originally from Africa; grown world-wide today
  6. Yardlong Beans
    • can grow up to 3 feet long, but it’s better to pick them before they get longer than 2 feet
    • also known as asparagus beans or Chinese long beans
    • can be eaten fresh or cooked, just like french beans
  7. Soybeans
    • grown like french beans
    • they produce short green pods covered with downy hairs
    • originated in Southeast Asia, but now grown worldwide
    • Dried, soybeans can be used just like any other dried beans
    • fresh pods can be boiled or steamed

Varieties to Grow

Growth Requirements for Beans

Climate & Temperature Requirements

Air Temperature

  • Lima beans like tropical environments, or areas with hot summers and full sun
  • Black-eyed peas do very well in warm climates, like the southern US and Asia, and must have a warm 2-3 month growing season
  • Yardlong beans are also tropical plants, so they are hard to grow outdoors in temperate climes
  • Soybeans need a warm climate, with hot summers (between 68 and 86 degrees F, consistently), but there are some cultivars which will tolerate cooler climates

Soil Temperature

  • Lima beans require warm soil temperatures to germinate
  • Black-eyed peas require 70 degrees F for germination

Humidity

Day Length or Light Requirements

Site Conditions Favored

Soil Requirements

Soil Texture

pH

Nutrient Requirements

Propagation

Methods of propagation

Seed

Division

Cuttings

Transplanting or Potting Up

Seed Saving

Planting Out

Bed Prep & Soil Amendments

Bed Spacing

Row Spacing

Planting Depth

Alternative Bed Methods

Routine Cultivation & Maintenance

Water Requirements

Fertilization Recommendations

Mulching & Weeding

Pinching or Pruning & Dividing

Support

Winterizing

Companion Planting

Helpful Companions

Harmful Companions

Companion to..

Pests, Diseases & Problems

Common Pests

Common Diseases

Symptoms

Whole Plant

Leaves

Stem/Trunk

Flowers

Fruit

Roots

Harvesting & Storage

Edible Parts of the Plant

Yield

Days to Harvest / Harvest Timing

  • French Beans
    • ready within 2-3 months of sowing
  • Runner Beans
    • take at least 100 days to harvest

When to Harvest

  • French Beans
    • Green Beans
      • harvested young, slender, and tender
      • as soon as the pods start appearing, start picking; the youngest & smallest beans taste best
      • keep picking regularly, at least 2-3 times per week, the more you pick, the more they will put out (as long as they are still flowering)
      • harvest before the seeds start bulging, when the beans snap off the plant and snap in half cleanly
      • continual harvest is essential for prolonged bean production
      • Bush, or dwarf, varieties should be picked when they are 1/4″ – 3/8″ diameter
      • Filet varieties should be picked daily, and pick them before they get over 1/8″ in diameter, for peak flavor
    • Fresh Shell Beans (aka Flageolet, Cannellini)
      • half-ripe French beans that are shelled before eating
      • can be left to grow larger before picking
    • Haricot, Beans for Drying
      • should be left to dry on the plant
      • in wet weather, they should be picked and dried on drying racks
      • Snap (green) beans should be harvested before the seeds (beans) have a chance to develop on the pod; give one of them a test by picking one from the vine and then breaking it in half: if it easily snaps — its ready VG
  • Runner Beans
    • very important to pick young, before they are stringy and tough
    • pick at least 2-3 times per week
    • picking increases productivity
  • Broad Beans
    • spring sown broad beans are ready to harvest in the summer
    • fall sown broad beans are ready to harvest in the following spring
    • sweeter and more succulent, the fresher and younger they are
    • harvesting encourages new growth, so the more you pick, the more you get
    • they can be picked as early as the pod shows – when they are about the size of your pinky finger
    • pick the pods before the beans inside get too large, when they are still young
    • the beans are at their best when the spot where the bean attaches to the pod is still green or white, not brown
  • Black-eyed Peas
    • harvest young for eating whole, mature for shelling; dried for storage
  • Yardlong Beans
    • harvest before they get 1.5 feet long, which is about when they get tough and stringy

Harvest Methods

  • Broad Beans
    • Harvest the lower beans first, those closest to the central stem; this makes the remaining pods continue to grow

Storage of harvest

Fresh

  • Green Beans (aka String Beans, Snap Beans, Young French Beans)
    • Store beans in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for no more than a couple of days, since they shrivel quickly
    • they will keep 7-10 days at ideal temperature for storing fresh snap beans is 40-45 degrees F, 95% humidity
  • Fresh Shelled Beans
    • keep shell beans at room temperature for a few days
    • in the refrigerator, store them in a paper bag for up to a week

Canned

  • Green Beans (aka String Beans, Snap Beans, Young French Beans)
    • canned green beans taste fair, and last 12+ months

Frozen

  • all beans freeze well
  • Wash, trim, and blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes, then bag them up and freeze right away
  • Snap beans preserved this way taste excellent, and will keep for 12 months

Pickled

  • Green Beans (aka String Beans, Snap Beans, Young French Beans)
    • perfect for pickling, since they hold their texture well

Dried

  • leave the pods on the plant to ripen & dry fully, unless it’s wet out or if it’s going to freeze
  • when the beans rattle inside the pod, they are ready to be shelled and stored in jars or bags
  • if it’s wet out, or there’s a frost coming, harvest the pods and dry them whole on screens or racks
  • excellent way of preserving the taste; will keep for up to 24 months
  • Storage Requirements:
    • remove all bad beans
    • place on shallow trays and heat at 170-180 degrees F for 10-15 minutes
    • cool
    • store in a cool, dry area in tight jars
    • the heating kills any potential weevil eggs, as well as mold

Cooking Beans

Nutritional Benefits & Values

Toxicity

Cooking

Preparation

  • GREEN BEANS (AKA STRING BEANS, SNAP BEANS, YOUNG FRENCH BEANS)
    • most modern varieties don’t really have much of a string anymore
    • to check for a string, snap off the stem end. If only see a small string attached, just cut off the tips with a knife. this can be done in batches. some chefs also like to cut off the tails. If the string is long and tough, snap both ends off of each bean while pulling the string down from top to tail
    • cutting them diagonally into halves or thirds, depending on their length, makes eating them easier & they look pretty
  • FRESH SHELL BEANS (AKA FLAGEOLET, CANNELLINI)
    • break open pods along the seam, then pop out the beans by running your thumb up the center
  • BROAD BEANS
    • if you pick them very young, then you have a choice of shelling the beans, and eating them raw, or cooking the pods and eating them whole, just like sugar snap peas

Cooking Methods

  • GREEN BEANS (AKA STRING BEANS, SNAP BEANS, YOUNG FRENCH BEANS)
    • Sauteing
      • great for complex layers of flavor
      • parboiling before sauteing keeps the bright color and controls texture
    • Boiling
      • results in consistent cooking texture throughout the bean
      • described as “toothsome but not crunchy or fibrous”
    • Braising
      • makes a tender, flavorful bean
    • Roasting
      • caramelizes and creates delicious full flavor
  • FRESH SHELL BEANS (AKA FLAGEOLET, CANNELLINI)
    • Simmered
      • tenderizes them and prepares them for use in other dishes
  • SOYBEANS
    • fresh pods can be boiled or steamed
  • YARDLONG BEANS
    • can be eaten fresh or cooked, just like french beans

Recipes (link to …/category/recipes/tag/Beans)

  • Recipes using GREEN BEANS (aka STRING BEANS, SNAP BEANS, YOUNG FRENCH BEANS)
  • Recipes using FRESH SHELL BEANS (aka FLAGEOLET, CANNELLINI)

Resources

Information for this article was taken from these sources. (link to …/category/resources/tag/Beans)

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