Beans, plain old garden beans. The kind you pick when they look long enough, snap off the top end with the little piece of stem, snap them into 2, 3, or 4 pieces depending on how you like them… rinse them off, dump them into a pan, add an inch or so of water, salt to taste and boil till they reach the tenderness you like. You can cook them with bacon or salt pork if you prefer them Southern style or you can cook them without any seasoning other than a bit of salt and then add butter after you have drained them and put them into your serving bowl. Yum. I like them both ways!
We call these “snap beans” because of the way we snap them into the perfect bite-sized pieces.
Snap beans can be bushes or they can be climbers.
Bush beans are exactly that: little bushes around 2 ft tall or thereabouts, needing no support unless you are a super tidy sort of person. They do tend to flop over when they are full of beans. These can be grown in containers quite easily.
If you are pressed for space but have a fence or trellis available, pole beans (climbers) are perfect. Just a few plants will grow right up that support and set beans all along the length of the vine. If you don’t have a trellis or fence, you can make a simple support for them to climb on. We will go into that at a later date. And if you are really creative, you can make the framework for a playhouse for the little ones, plant your pole beans around the supports and by mid-summer the kids will have a nice shady playhouse. And you will have nice fresh beans for dinner!
Now we get to the fun part…
Beans, which we commonly call “green beans” if we don’t use the term “snap beans”, can come in colors other than green. There are deep yellow beans, pale yellow beans, cream-colored beans… and best of all, PURPLE beans. Purple green beans. I guess in this case we should call them purple snap beans. The various shades of yellow beans remain yellow when you cook them but the purple beans… sadly, they turn a bright green when cooked. You can mix yellow beans and green beans and have an attractive veggie on your dinner plate. However, if you mix purple beans and green beans, the purple beans tend to be a brighter green color than the green beans, which is NOT attractive on your plate.
So.. what do you do with the beans that were hidden by the leaves and were way too mature when you finally found them? You pop the seeds out of the pods and mix them with your regular beans. Toss the shells onto the compost pile. They are kinda tough and just a bit too chewy and stringy. This mixture is usually called “shellie beans” and I can remember eating these a lot when I was a kid, especially late in the season. Shellie beans are great cooked with some potatoes and kielbasa. Cook them long enough for the potatoes to start crumbling. That makes a nice “gravy”. Can you say “one pot meal”?
HOW TO GROW BEANS
The various types of beans are all grown the same way, the only difference being that the climbing (pole) beans are vines and thus need some kind of support.
Plant seeds about 2 inches apart along the row. OR plant 2 or 3 beans at each leg of your support. If you are growing your pole beans along a fence, that is the same as a row.
Seeds should be about an inch deep. Water, and wait.
Most beans pop up in 3 to 5 days, sometimes a bit longer. When they have their second set of leaves, pull out every other plant in the row so you have about 4 inches between them. Why did we plant so close and then throw away the baby plants? Because sometimes some seeds don’t sprout. This way all your plants will be the same age and will produce at the same time.
Water regularly when it doesn’t rain.
Beans will start producing in 42 days for the earliest varieties up to around 55-60 days for the long season climbers. They should continue producing for a couple of months if you keep them harvested. If you are in a cold climate, they should produce until the first frost, which will kill them.
VARIETIES WE GROW: