Mainstay Vegetables: Green beans

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Mon, Jul 15, 2013 - 8:07am

To quote a gardener here who once went through hard times where her family had to depend on the garden, "You'll eat a lot of green beans, but you won't starve." Green beans, also known as snap beans, are one of the most prolific producers you can have in your garden. We only have an eight foot long, four foot high trellis, and it produces a two or three of pounds of beans a day - more than the two of us want, at present, so I freeze or can the rest as a 3-bean salad, with home-grown wax (yellow) beans and canned kindey beans.

Green beans, like all legumes, have one very good things going for them: they work with beneficial bacteria nodules on their roots that make nitrogen available to the plants. In other words, they make their own fertilizer. And some of that fertilizer can enrich the part of your garden that they were planted in, next year. (Yield tip: it's not strictly necessary but you can use a bean innoculant that makes sure the seed is coated with helpful bacteria before planting.) At the end of the season make sure to put those bean leaves and plants in your compost! The leaves are where most of the nitrogen went.

Another wonderful thing about green beans is that they will fit anywhere. They come in both bush (try Blue Lake, the supermarket green beans) and vining varieties (8-ft-high trellises get the best yields). I heartily recommend the vines, because they bear heavily all season and take up almost no space. Although bush beans are more tender, you will get only two small crops out of bush-type green beans (although I grow the bush wax beans for color in that 3-bean salad!) Bush beans, however, are fantastic for enriching a patch of soil in the first part of the growing season to plant something for the fall. For tender vine green beans just pick them young. (If you leave them on the vine too long, if it's an heirloom variety, when the pods get lumpy and hard just save the seeds for next year.)

When it comes to what kind of green beans to plant there is an absolutely dizzying array of choices so I am only going to comment on the ones I have grown. Kentucky Wonder is an old favorite, tried and true, a very heavy bearer, and a true heirloom where all you have to do is save the seeds for next year. Tip: the seeds look bigger than they are in the pods because they are filled with plant "packing material," so wait until the individual seeds are rock-hard and the pod is somewhat flacid before picking pods for saving the seeds.

I am currently growing wax bush beans, Kentucky Wonder and Rattlesnake beans, a green bean with a mottled purple pattern on the beans that dissapears when you cook them. Very heavy bearers.

My final bean this season is a cross between bush Blue Lake and vine Kentucky Wonder called Kentucky Blue. They are stringless but weird--they start out as a bush then send out vines and ODD looking beans that seem to attract ants. More leaves than beans - I do not recommend them.

In warmer climates you might want to try what I did last year, a "greasy" vining green bean, so named since they have smooth, almost shiny beans that limit transpiration. And next year we are trying yard-long green beans, also known as asparagus beans. They are really only a foot and a half long, but that sounds pretty good to me. What varieties have you tried?

"How-to" Green (Snap) Bean prep and preservation. Remove the stem and the point. All but the stringless varieties need a string removed from both sides of the bean, sort of like a zipper. I snap the beans into 1-inch pieces to make sure I got all the string off.

  • Freezer Method. To freeze, simply boil enough water with a little salt to cover all the prepped beans, and "blanch" them--immerse them in boiling water--for five minutes. Then pour them into a collander, cool them with cold water, and add them to a freezer bag marked with the date.
  • Canner Method. Green beans are a low-acid food and require a pressure canner unless you are pickling them. Here is a video on how to pressure-can green beans. To preserve green beans with a water-bath canner, try this recipe.
  • Dryer method. The Chinese have dried green beans for centuries, and they reconstitute well in soups, in my experience. I've used our solar dehydrator to dry green beans. You absolutely must remove the ends and the strings before you dry them.


catherder's picture
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Joined: Nov 17 2010
Posts: 26
Thanks, Wendy!

I've just printed out the recipe for the pickled beans, water bath canner. I also have a lot of beans! We have a 4-family group garden, and two of the families have had to drop out, leaving us with a lot of food, AND a lot of weeding. I have enough (self-seeding) arugula for 100 people and am bringing 10 lb sacks of it to work and giving it away. You wouldn't happen to have any tips on how to make a really good non-separating raspberry jam that doesn't use a zillion lbs of sugar, would you?

maceves's picture
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green beans and potatoes

Green beans and potatoes were a staple food in East Tennessee because anybody could grow them,  The beans were canned and the potatoes stored all winter.

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
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Joined: Aug 25 2009
Posts: 1220

which is top pick pinkeye purple hull pea and corn bread. a mainstay of my childhood and my adulthood.



Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Posts: 1988
no sugar jam


All berries need added pectin to make jam (that's why so many old-fashioned households had crabapple trees, they're loaded with pectin!), but commerical pectin has sugar in it. You have to buy no sugar pectin and follow the directions...which are very different than the regular ones.

Please note that I am on a low carb diet but a spoon full of sugar-laden jam has only 5 carbs, so I can my berries with sugar.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Posts: 1988
three bean salad recipe

This is cheating, but what the heck. I use Wishbone Rubusto Itallian dressing, water, and white vinegar with a pinch of salt to make my canned three-bean salad. The propotions work out to the dressing taking up about a third of the full canning jar, the water taking up most of the rest, and then I add the pinch of salt and a little vinegar at a time until it tastes right to me. I'm not above cheating when such ingredients are on hand.

gyrogearloose's picture
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Posts: 549
crab apples

Never knew that about crab apples,    We make tons of wild blackberry jam each year, but have trouble getting it to set.  better get planting soem crab apples !

Nervous Nelly's picture
Nervous Nelly
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Posts: 209
How to make Crab apple Jelly without adding pectin

I've made this and it's really good. 


pinecarr's picture
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Posts: 2259
Good luck with Provider green beans

I have had good luck with Provider bush green beans, in the northeast US.  They seem to grow easily for me (and I don't have a green thumb), and produce well.

Rob P's picture
Rob P
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Posts: 85
Yeh, it's a great bean

I've grown it for years here in the lower midwest/mid south.  It grows rapidly, adapts to all sorts of conditions, and is easy to save. 

This year I'm trying Kentucky wonder bush bean.  It is slower to mature, the pods mature over a longer time from the bottom up.  This has an advantage over provider in that you can keep harvesting mutliple rounds over time.

Provider tends to come up fast; then puts on a crop for harvesting more or less all at once. 

I use provider to plug into any bed that won't be used for 10 weeks or more.  We get some beans and it fixes nitrogen.

pinecarr's picture
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Posts: 2259
Good info re Kentucky Wonder

Good info re Kentucky Wonder bush beans vs Providers, Rob; thanks.  Let us know how the former do for you. 

Grover's picture
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Posts: 878
Dilly Beans

Hi Folks,

This is a great recipe for dill pickle beans. I've made 43 pints so far this year and given away more than 30 of them. They are wonderful on a sandwich and the various attributes can be adjusted to personal taste. At the beginning of the season, I boil the water/vinegar/salt mixture and pour it over the beans. No hot water bath. This leaves the beans crispy, but may not kill all the bad actors in the jar. I always tell the gift receivers that a funky smell or a popped lid means danger. Here's the recipe:

Put about 1-2 teaspoons of dill in a wide mouth pint jar. If you like garlic, put a couple of cloves (or more) sliced in half in the jar. If you like peppers, add some peppers. I prefer dried serrano peppers and add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon. Then, pack jar with beans. This should be as tight as you can get them. Then, lift the beans about 1/4" - 1/2" and cut across the jar top. Push the beans back into the jar so you have 1/4" to 1/2" of headspace.

The pickling juice is 2 cups of 5% vinegar (I prefer apple cider vinegar) 2 cups of water, and 1/4 cup of salt. Boil this mixture and pour it over the jarred beans. Depending on how good you are at packing, this amount will fill 3 or 4 jars. Then, put the lid on and screw down the band.

Let it mellow at least several days before eating. My first jar usually gets opened after 2 days. After that, I have enough patience to follow my own rules.

If you are worried about bad actors (bacteria, etc.) you can put the filled jars in a pressure cooker or water bath to ensure that they are completely sterile. This comes at a price of the beans being limpish rather than crispy. I prefer crispy. I've never had a jar go bad, but I always eat them within a few months of canning. I water bath the jars toward the end of the season so they can last until the next season's crop is ready.

I've filled a few jars with the bean ends that got cut off from the packed jars. These don't pack as well and use more pickling fluid. I find them to be a bit too salty for my tastes. I save these for the last and use 3 cups of vinegar and 3 cups of water with 1/4 cup of salt.


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