Green beans are one of a garden's best bets. Try planting a few different varieties of beans, as each has a distinctive flavor and there’s a range of colors, shapes and sizes. Green beans, also referred to as string or snap or wax beans, are hearty producers, are resistant to most plant diseases and pests, and the entire edible bean pods are incredibly easy to cook or preserve for winter feasts.
Green bean plants grow in either pole or bush formation, and those descriptions aren't just about the plant shape. Pole plants produce beans throughout the growing season on a vine that continues reaching taller, and bush beans grow on a compact plant but the beans mature all at once. For those who plan to can their green beans, bush varieties are the most convenient.
Pole varieties, like Stringless Blue Lake S-7 will produce ample deep green beans throughout the summer up until frost, on 6- to 8-foot-tall plants. They'll need a tall teepee, stake or trellis-type support to provide the best harvest. Pick ripe beans often to keep the plant producing throughout the season.
With varied size, taste and texture qualities among different varieties of green beans, you can choose your plants based on your desired preparation or storage, and the flavor you seek. String beans are best harvested at their mature length, but just before the seeds inside can be felt through the pod.
When it's time to harvest your beans, they should break off the vine without needing to be cut off. Holding the entire green bean in your hand, give it a gentle tug in the opposite direction of its growth. It should easily snap right off the plant. It's best to pick beans on dry days, to avoid mold formation on the pods. Beans can be stored unwashed in a plastic container or bag in the refrigerator for up to five days. Watch our video on how to pick green beans.
Pickled green beans hold their crisp texture and they can be preserved in a variety of seasonings that meld well with their mild flavor. String beans also are great candidates for traditional canning methods, such as those explained in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. Again, their flavor pairs well with salty, spicy, acidic or sweet canning ingredients.
For freezing fresh-picked green beans, blanch them in boiling water, then rinse in cold water, dry them and immediately package in freezer containers to preserve their bright color and to prevent freezer burn.
Fresh-cooked green beans can be eaten completely plain or with a light coating of butter, but more adventurous cooks like to add more interesting flavors and textures like almond slivers, sesame oil and black sesame seeds, garlic, vinegar, or tomato sauces. Any way you prepare them, green beans are packed with great nutrients, making them a guilt-free pleasure.