Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

A Bounty of Beans

by Susan Littlefield

If easy gratification in the garden is what you're after, beans are a pretty good place to start. Easy to sow and grow, adaptable and usually problem-free, beans produce in abundance for very little effort. In fact your biggest problem is likely to be what to do with all the beans you've grown.

There is a bean for just about every garden situation and palate. Bush beans produce large crops of beans that are ready for harvest quickly and can be planted in successive sowings so you have plenty of tender pods throughout the season. Tall growing pole beans produce over a long season and are renowned for their delicious "beany" flavor. For the adventurous there are novelty types such as aptly-named yard long beans.

Bean Varieties

There are several types of bush beans, but all produce plants that grow 2 feet tall or less. The varieties with round green pods are probably the most familiar. They germinate reliably, even when the soil is still on the cool side, their sturdy seedlings shouldering their way through the soil toward the light. Prolific bearers, they are great for fresh use. Because they ripen their pods in a fairly short period of time, they work well for folks who want to can or freeze their crop. Yellow wax beans add a beautiful color to the garden or the dinner plate. The slender French or filet beans have a delicate flavor and texture that more than makes up for their their less abundant bearing.

You'll need to wait slightly longer to start harvesting from pole beans, but they are worth the wait. Many folks think that pole beans have the best, most pronounced "bean" flavor of all. Their tall vines will produce more beans in total over a season and for a longer period of time, but the harvest at any one time will be smaller. This makes them a good choice for gardeners who grow beans mainly for fresh eating. Pole beans need sturdy poles or a trellis to support their vigorous growth.

Adventurous gardeners may want to explore other members of the bean clan. Shell and dried beans are harvested when the seeds have matured inside the pod, but the pod is still green (shell beans) or dried. Shell beans are tasty steamed; dried beans are great baked or in soups.

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