The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Beautiful bountiful beans

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
slmason@illinois.edu

Fresh green beans and new potatoes. A sure sign of summer. Now that the weather has warmed it's time to plant beans. Beans are pretty easy to grow in a sunny garden.

Bean plants can be bush or pole types. Bush beans do not require staking. Pole beans are also good producers and great for gardeners who want to maximize the vertical space in the garden. The world of beans goes well beyond the familiar green snap beans. Each one has their own unique character and flavor.

UI Extension educator Greg Stack shares some of his bean recommendations.

Green snap beans are edible pod beans once called "string" beans because of the string-like fiber running along the seam of the pod. Today's cultivars have been bred to eliminate this fiber-like string. Pod colors range from green to yellow to purple. For bush type green beans consider 'Provider', 'Topcrop', 'Tendercrop', and 'Contender'. 'Golden Wax' and 'Cherokee Wax' are good choices for yellow pod bush beans and 'Royalty' and 'Royal Burgundy' are colorful purple pod beans.

Pole snap bean choices include 'Blue Lake', 'Kentucky Wonder' and 'Purple Pod.' To assure continuous supply of quality snap beans through the season, plant a new crop every two to four weeks until early August. Also, keep the pods picked to encourage plants to keep setting new pods.

Lima beans, also called butter beans, are grown for the immature sees that are shelled out of the pod. Standard Lima beans require three to four months to mature. Baby Lima beans such as 'Baby Fordhook' mature much quicker so may be a better choice for our area.

Horticultural dry beans are large seeded beans. These can't be used as a snap bean because the pods are very fibrous and tough. Harvest these when the pods turn from green to yellow. Many of the heirloom bean varieties are considered horticultural beans. The seeds can be quite colorful. 'Brokton Horticultural' is a pole type with wonderful nutty flavor while 'Good Mother Stallard' is also a pole type with a meaty flavor.

Another bean that can be grown as a green shelled or dry bean is the Cowpea also sometimes called Crowder or Black-Eyed pea. These beans grow best in warm humid weather and the bush types mature earlier and are better suited for use in Midwest gardens. 'Purple Hull Pink Eye' is a good variety.

Yardlong or asparagus bean are really a type of cowpea but are eaten as immature pods like a snap bean. They require a trellis or support for the long vines. Plants continue to produce over several weeks and if allowed to mature, the pods can grow to three feet long. At this stage pods are past best stage for cooking but can be shelled and used as cowpeas. In the long bean category 'Chinese Red Noodle' provides deep red-colored beans 18 inches long. 'Taiwan Black Seeded Long Bean' produce pods that are 38 inches long and are best fried not boiled.

Fava beans also called Broad beans require a long, cool growing season and typically don't like hot summer weather. With this in mind, these are best planted in very early spring at about the same time peas are being planted. Two varieties to look for are 'Aquadulche' and 'Broad Windsor'.

Edible soybeans, also sold as Soya or Edamame beans are garden varieties often larger than field varieties of soybeans. These can be shelled and used as fresh beans or dried. Soybeans are picked when the pods are plump, green, rough and hairy. Nearly all the beans will be the same size so the entire plant can be pulled so all beans can be picked off at the same time. 'Envy' is a popular variety.

Now you know beans about beans.

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