Green Beans: All About This Plant That Is The Third Most Popular “Vegetable” In American Gardens

The green bean plant (Phaseolus vulgaris) goes by many common names. French beans, string beans, snap beans, and snaps are all different names of the same species. Phaseolus vulgaris is an annual herbaceous from the legume family Fabaceae, cultivated for its dry seeds or unripe fruits.

The dry beans are harvested at complete maturity. But, when young, immature pods are picked, those are the ones we call snap beans or green beans. These young fruits are harvested before the seed development, and they are consumed as nutritious vegetables popularly in many regions of the world.

These beans are distinguished from several other bean varieties in that the enclosing pods of the green beans are also edible, together with the seeds within.

But what is the green bean plant, what are the different varieties that exist, and how is it cultivated? From its rich history to growing tips, you’ll find out all about this plant right here.

Green beans are a favorite of home gardens in the United States. They thrive in almost all regions and can tolerate various soils to produce a bountiful harvest within two months. Did you know that it’s the third most widely grown vegetable in home gardens of the U.S., after tomatoes and peppers!?

Common NameGreen Beans, Snap Beans, Snaps, String Beans, French Beans
Botanical NamePhaseolus Vulgaris
Plant TypeAn Annual
Size (Fully Grown)Bush = 8 – 20 Inches (20 – 51 cm) Tall, Vining = 7 – 10 Feet (2,1 – 3 Meters) Long
Sun ExposureFull Sun
Soil TypeA Well-draining Soil, Usually No Need For Supplemental Fertilizing
Soil pHFrom 6.0 To 7.0
Flower ColorWhite, Pink, Or Purple
U.S. Hardiness Zones2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, And 10
Native AreaSouth America, Central America

How Many Green Bean Varieties Are There?

There are well over 130 different green bean varieties. Ironically, they’re not all “green.” A variety of vivid pod colors exist, including green, red, purple, or variegated. Generally, the varieties fall under two categories: bush beans and pole beans.

Bush Beans

Bush beans are short, erect plants that grow to a height of under 2 feet (about 61 cm) and won’t need any supports. They reach harvest before the pole beans but will produce fewer pods. Here are some popular bush beans for home gardens:

  1. Jade
  2. Derby
  3. Eureka
  4. Maxibel
  5. Rolande
  6. Provider
  7. Contender
  8. Green Crop
  9. Big Kahuna
  10. Maxi Dwarf
  11. Purple Queen
  12. Blue Lake 274
  13. Dragon Tongue
  14. Early Bush Italian
  15. White Half Runner
  16. Improved Tendergreen

Pole Beans

Pole beans are vining plants that typically grow between 7 to 10 feet (about 2,1 to 3 meters) long, possibly more depending on the variety. They’ll need support, such as a trellis, stake, or fence, to climb.

Though pole beans take a little longer to reach harvest, the harvest period is longer. Many gardeners favor pole beans over bush beans because the pods taste better. Here are some varieties to consider:

  1. Fortex
  2. Algarve
  3. Blue Lake
  4. Gold Marie
  5. Rattlesnake
  6. Purple King
  7. Golden Gate
  8. Kentucky Blue
  9. Scarlet Runner
  10. Trionfo Violetta
  11. Spanish Musica
  12. Kentucky Wonder
  13. Asparagus Yardlong

Tracing The Origins Of Green Beans

Green beans originated from the regions of Central and South America. Historical records show that the vegetable has been cultivated and consumed in Peru and Mexico for over 7000 years. The crop cultivation spread out across the pre-Columbian New World long before the Europeans discovered the species.

During his second voyage to the New World in 1493, Columbus came across green beans and brought them back to the Mediterranean upon his return. The earliest drawing of the new bean that came to Europe is believed to be made by Leonhart Fuchs, a German doctor, in his herbal published in 1543.

The green beans spread across Europe and by the 17th century, it was being grown across Greece, Turkey, and Italy. But, the early varieties were somewhat stringy and tough, more suited for ornamental purposes than edible.

Soon after, cross-breeding experiments began to create more tender beans that were easier to consume and had fewer strings. Over the years, “stringless beans” were developed, eliminating the unappetizing fibrous strings along the pod edges.

Today, people grow this plant in many temperate regions across the globe. They’re most popular in China, Indonesia, India, and Turkey. The United States also harvests large quantities of them, primarily from Wisconsin, Florida, and New York.

During the season, customers prefer buying fresh green beans. But, since the harvest season is relatively short, they are also extensively marketed frozen and canned through the rest of the year.

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What Does The Green Beans Plant Look Like?

Green beans are annual herbaceous plants that grow quickly to come to harvest within two months. They are either long vining plants or extend in the form of a low-growing bush. Different varieties have varying growth patterns and sizes, but the long, plump beans hanging from the branches in summers will help in recognition.

Leaves

Green beans have alternately arranged leaves on the stems, made of three oval leaflets with smooth edges. They can be green or purplish, over 2,4 to 5,9 inches (about 6 to 15 cm) long, and 1,2 to 4,3 inches (approximately 3 to 11 cm) wide.

Flowers

Green bean plants are self-pollinators, which means that they have complete flowers consisting of both male and female parts. Unlike many other fruits and vegetables, they won’t need pollinators like bees or insects.

The plant can produce white, pink, or purple flowers about two months after planting, depending on the variety you grow. They’re approximately 0.4 inches (about 1 cm) wide and will each bear pods for harvesting.

Fruit

The pods that appear on the flowers are harvested while they’re still young. Most varieties produce green pods, but you’ll also find them in other colors, including purple, yellow and striped. Depending on the cultivar, the pod size can vary from 3 – 8 inches (about 7,5 – 20 cm) long and 0.4 – 0.6 inches (about 1 – 1,5 cm) wide.

They can be plump or slightly flattened and are picked while still immature and tender. The seeds inside aren’t fully developed at the time of harvest.

Green beans pods are available fresh, frozen, and canned and used in various ways. They can be served raw, steamed, boiled, fried, baked, or included in dishes like soups and casseroles.

In What Kind of Conditions Do Green Beans Grow Best In?

As long as you have a warm growing season, growing green beans is easy. Here are some specifics you should know about before planting it in your garden.

In What Temperature Do Green Beans Grow Best In?

Green bean seeds are generally sown directly to the garden in spring once all dangers of frost have passed. They are warm-season crops that grow optimally when they grow in a temp between 65 and 85°F (about 18 to 30°C). Seeds will germinate the fastest when the soil temperature is between 70°F and 80°F (about 21 to 26°C).

Soil And Sun

Green beans prefer moderately fertile, well-draining soil that’s slightly on the acidic side for fast growth. Choose a site with plenty of sunlight and amend it with organic matter before you plant the seeds.

Water And Fertilizer

One inch (about 2,5 cm) of water each week is enough for growing them. Feel the moisture a bit below the topsoil with your finger; if it’s dry, your plant needs a drink. Why? Well, because a lack of moisture can cause your plants to stop flowering.

Avoid using high-nitrogen fertilizers since they fix their nitrogen in the soil, just like other legumes. But, pole beans can enjoy from a side-dressing of compost at midseason.

Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Green Beans?

Green beans are healthy vegetables. They are low on calories, carry no cholesterols, and are rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Fresh green beans are an excellent addition to your everyday diet.

Do note that many common varieties have a toxic compound, phytohaemagglutinin when they’re in their raw state. Cooking deactivates the toxin, making it safe to consume. While eating small quantities of raw beans may not trigger an adverse reaction, it’s best to cook them well before eating. Let’s see if green beans present any more risks for certain individuals.

Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women

Green beans are a good source of nutrients, including folic acid. They’re perfectly safe and even healthy to consume during pregnancy and lactation.

Children

They are a nutritious addition to a baby’s diet and can be started from 6 months of age, as soon as they’re ready to eat solids. Cooked whole green beans are excellent finger foods for toddlers.

People With Allergies

Green beans aren’t a common allergen, but some people with peanut allergies may also show allergic reactions to other legumes, including green beans.

People With Diabetes

Green beans have a low glycemic index and are excellent foods for people with diabetes.

Pets

The green bean plant isn’t toxic to pets. They’re not only safe but also an occasional healthy snack for your dog.

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