Beans, Beans, Good for the Heart …….

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As the danger of frost passes, it is time to get serious about planting those tender plants in the garden. Tomatoes, pepper, sweet corn, eggplant, squash and of course, beans. Ah, the marvelous bean. A staple of our diet and used in so many different ways.

How can you grow beans? Let me count the ways. There’s literally a botanical bevy of bodacious beans for bountiful blessings. Let’s take a look at the various types and varieties that you may want to try in your garden.

First, let’s talk about the growth habit of the various beans. Several beans have both pole and bush varieties. The pole varieties are indeterminate and require trellising for best performance. They grow long vines and produce over a longer period than the bush types.

Bush beans are determinate and, as the term implies, grow in a more bush-like habit that doesn’t require support. They set a fruit over a shorter time but can still have great yields. There are semi-vining types that are often referred to as “half runners”. These can either be trellised or not.

Secondly, there are different ways in which beans are used. Some are shelled, while some are eaten with the shell. This depends on how fibrous the shell and how tender it will cook up. Some are dried and re-hydrated when cooked.

So let’s look at some specific types.

Green Beans, String Beans, Snap Beans

Whichever term you use, they are basically the same. It’s the standard bean we’ve all eaten many times. They are very popular in the garden because they can be preserved by canning very well. These beans are harvested before full maturity and are eaten with the pods.

Older varieties often had strings that had to be removed. Modern breeding has created newer varieties with less strings. They can be pole, bush and half runner. They are generally snapped into pieces before cooking or preserving. Some folks like more bean in the pod than others and some varieties, like the half runners, will still have a tender pod after they have developed a fairly sizable bean inside.

Most common green bean varieties are of the Blue Lake type. Green beans come in a number of sizes (called sieve sizes) that are a measure of their diameter. Most garden beans are sieve 3 or 4. However, there are gourmet beans that are as small as sieve 1. These filet beans are often sold as haricot verts – which is basically a literal translation for “green bean”

Then there are the flat-podded green beans. These come in either bush or pole varieties. They are the Italian type or Romano (Roma) beans. Many people swear by their flavor and they are eaten and preserved as any other green bean.

Other types include greasy backs, which are a green bean with a smooth surface (no fuzz on the hull). They are an heirloom bean known in Appalachia for their flavor. Rattlesnake beans have a purple flower, a green and purple variegated hull and the seed are speckled brown and tan. They are often eaten dried, but can be consumed fresh. Wax beans are a type of green bean with a yellowish hull. They are often used in salads.

Lima Beans, Butter Beans

Lima beans are a slightly different species than green beans. They generally have a kidney shaped bean and a flatter pod. There are several different varieties that fall into this category. They can either be bush or pole types. They are generally shelled from the pod before cooking and consumption.

Baby Lima beans are varieties such as Henderson’s, Tendergreen, etc., are usually bush types and form a smaller, tender bean. They are generally eaten fresh, canned or frozen. The heirloom Fordhook types are usually pole types but there are more modern bush variations. They form a larger bean than the baby Lima. They can be eaten fresh or dried for storage. Canning and freezing is possible, too.

The Dixie Specked Butterpea also falls into this category. The beans however, are more roundish and are reddish-brown speckled with a darker brown. These are grown almost entirely in the south.

Christmas Limas are larger, flatter beans. They have a light cream color that is speckled with maroon spots and splashes. They can be eaten green shelled or dried.

Dried Beans

The dry beans include such types as Pinto, Kidney, Navy and Great Northern types. They are all generally shelled and dried for preservation. They are a staple in many diets and can be stored for lengthy periods. Due to humidity, they are not as popular in the south as it is more difficult to get them to the dried stage desired although they will grow here.

Southern Peas

There are basically four types of southern peas although there are variations on these that some folks might consider different types. The four main types are the brown crowder, black-eye, pink-eye purple hull and cream peas. These are mostly grown to full maturity, shelled and dried.

However, they also can be harvested at a younger stage and cooked with the pods. Several other varieties such as iron clay peas and zipper peas are of the same type but just variations.

Green Peas

Not a bean, but the peas are a more cool-season legume grown in many gardens. There are three main types. English peas are shelled and the peas are eaten green or preserved, usually by freezing. Snow peas are harvested before the pea develops and the hull is eaten fresh. They are often used in salads, too.

Sugar snap peas are a cross between the two and the peas can develop to virtually full size and the pod remains crisp and edible. Sugar snap peas can be grown in slightly warmer weather than the other two. All three are grown virtually the same way.


Good gracious!! There are so many other types of beans that we won’t have time to cover here. Yardlong beans, asparagus beans, fava beans, edamame, black beans, chickpeas, mung beans, and the list goes on and on. But there’s one thing about it – beans are a staple of the garden. Try your luck at all the different options.

Remember – beans, beans are good for the heart…………