Green beans refer to the unripe young fruit of several common bean cultivars like snap beans, lima beans, and pinto beans. We also consider runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus), yardlong beans (Vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis), and hyacinth beans (Lablab purpureus) as green beans because they are prepared, cooked, and eaten the same way. Most importantly, they are harvested the same way – the pods are picked before the seeds inside have fully matured.
Species: P. vulgaris
Binomial name: Phaseolus vulgaris
Green Bean Trivia
- Avoid eating overmature green beans. They are often tough and stringy.
- Mexico is among the first to cultivate green beans.
- The green beans that have spread worldwide by way of Central America came from Peru.
- Green beans are typically planted alongside or alternately with corn.
- It was the French who was the first to put green beans on their restaurant menus.
- Green beans were exclusively ornamental in Spain because the flowers look great but the bean pods are tough to eat. According to a popular folk story, some green beans fell into a pot by accident, and even though it was unintentional, the people eating the food loved it. Since then, they started eating green beans.
- The Iowa-based Seed Savers Exchange, an international network of seed collections, has over 4,000 varieties (and growing) of beans in their collection.
- We value green bean plants because of the edible pods, but they have a butterfly-like blossom that comes in different shades of red, pink, or white, and they are really pretty.
Green Bean Buying Guide
There are different kinds of green beans so make sure to know which green bean you need specifically. If you are buying seeds to grow your own green beans, remember that there are pole cultivars and bush cultivars. Pole types require something they can climb, something bush types do not need.
The term “green beans” does not refer to just one specific plant. There are three commonly known types of green beans. These are (1) string beans which others call snap beans; (2) stringless or French beans; and (3) runner beans. Both the string beans/snap beans and the French beans belong to the species Phaseolus vulgaris. The difference is the presence of a tough, fibrous string running along the length of the pod in string beans (hence the name) and nonexistent in French/stringless beans (again, hence the name). Runner beans belong to the species Phaseolus coccineus. If you are in the market or grocery looking for green beans, do not be surprised if you see green beans that have different colors, such as purple (which is the case for snap beans), yellow, or white (which is the case for wax beans.
When buying, make sure the green beans are whole and there are no damaged beans. Green beans have general physical qualities like shape or color/color pattern. Check if the beans are generally consistent with the color or shape you expect them. Any discoloration or holes or damage in the beans or broken beans suggest that these beans are not safe to eat. Besides discoloration and signs of damage on the beans, check for signs the beans have shriveled since this may indicate that the beans are not fresh and maybe not ideal for eating too. Last but not the least, make sure that the beans you are buying are clean. If you bought loose green beans in the supermarket, check for anything that should never find its way to your food, like dirt, twigs, small rocks, and other inedible debris.
Green Bean Production & Farming in Texas
Green beans enjoy full sun and grow best in well-drained, fertile soil. Soil requirement is 6.1 to 6.5 pH. Beans can grow in climate zones 3A to 10B. Beans are generally warm-weather crops, making them a suitable choice for Texas growers because of the climate in Texas.
Texas A&M advises that all weeds and trash in the planting area is removed before planting green beans. Make sure the danger of frost has passed before planting. Water the plants once a week during dry weather. It is important to never let the soil dry out because this will impact the yield of the plant. Texas A&M recommends these varieties for growing green beans in Texas.
- Blue Lake
- Early Contender
- Goldencrop Wax
- Kentucky Wonder
- Dwarf Horticultural
- Florida Butter
- Florida Speckled
- Henderson Bush
- Jackson Wonder
The best cover crop to use if you are planting green beans are barley, rye grain, ryegrass, Sudangrass, wheat, oats, and other grain crops.
The main enemies of green bean plants are aphids and spider mites. Thrips, whiteflies, leafhoppers, and Mexican bean beetles also pose a problem. If the use of insecticide is necessary, carbaryl insecticide is an option for methods requiring the use of synthetic chemicals. Organic options include Bt-based insecticides and sulfur. Always read the label before using insecticides or pesticides and carefully following the directions for use.
- Aphids – Kill aphids destroying your beans using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil. You can also use the pesticide malathion, which is the most commonly used organophosphate insecticide in the United States, or rotenone, a selective, non-specific insecticide typically used in home gardens for insect control.
- Mites – To get rid of mites, use neem oil and apply it through foliar spraying. It contains azadirachtin which is effective against mites. You can also use horticultural oil (which also targets aphids and thrips). Pests die after exposure to horticultural oil due to suffocation since the oil blocks the spiracles through which insects breathe. Another effect of horticultural oils is disrupting the metabolism of insect eggs. Lastly, horticultural oils disrupt the insect’s ability to feed. As a result, the insect starves to death. Using pyrethrin spray is also an effective method against mites. Another option is spinosad, a mixture of two chemicals called spinosyn A and spinosyn D typically used to control a wide variety of pests.
- Thrips – To kill thrips, there is a wide array of options to choose from: horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, anti-parasite spray spinosad, or pyrethrin pesticides with piperonyl butoxide.
- Beetles – The use of man-made pesticide carbaryl is the solution to get rid of beetles. Other options include pyrethroid insecticides like cyfluthrin and Lambda cyhalothrin, pesticide malathion, pyrethrin spray, permethrin insecticide, and spinosad. You can also use Kaolin clay, Beauveria bassiana, and/or botanical insecticides.
- Leafhopper – Use pyrethroid insecticides like bifenthrin, organophosphates insecticides like malathion, pyrethrins, or any systemic insecticide (acephate, imidacloprid, or disulfoton).
Green beans are native to North America, South America, and Central America. Specifically, they are native to Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru. Today, green beans are naturalized and cultivated worldwide. Asian countries such as China, India, and Indonesia, Middle Eastern and Northern African countries such as Turkey, Egypt, and Morocco, European countries such as France, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, and Greece, Central America countries such as Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica, North American countries such as Mexico, Canada, and the United States, and the South American country of Argentina are known exporters of green beans. In the US, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, Florida, California, New York, Oregon, North Carolina, Delaware, and Pennsylvania are the major green bean-producing states. Midwestern states produce green beans grown for processing (into canned and frozen products), while the Southern states, Southeastern states, or West Coast states produce green beans sold fresh in supermarkets or groceries.
In the United States, green beans are ranked third when it comes to vegetables most commonly grown in home gardens, behind peppers and tomatoes. Green beans thrive in almost every part of the US.
You can buy canned green beans. Companies also use plastic food-grade packs for packaging dry green beans. Plastic packaging varies. You can buy green beans in vacuum-sealed plastic. Others use resealable plastic packaging. It is also common to find green beans sold in small quantities in Mylar bags or resealable aluminum foil pouch. Green bean packaging contains important information for consumers, including expiration or best before date, nutrition data, details about the manufacturer, etc.
Enjoying Green Beans
Green beans are part of the diet across the course of the life cycle from childhood through later life. Children are familiar with green beans and the elderly aged 70+ years old still eat green beans. There are a lot of different dishes and ways of eating green beans. The green bean casserole is an important dish in the US, especially during Thanksgiving. The taste of green beans complements vegetables like carrots, corn, and radishes.
Make sure to use a dry food container with a lid as storage for green beans. Place this in a cool, dry place. You can also refrigerate them. If you have any leftover cooked green beans, put these in a food container with a lid and refrigerate them.
Green beans are often steamed, boiled, stir-fried, or baked in casseroles. It is used in making soups and stews. Some even pickle green beans. Anywhere you go in the world, there is a very high possibility that there is a popular local dish that contains green beans. Salad Nicoise is prepared using green beans along with tuna and potatoes. You can also saute green beans with shiitake mushrooms for a quick meal, or prepare green beans almondine by sprinkling slivered almonds on healthy sautéed beans.
When you are cooking, just remember that green beans are best when cooked for a short time. Overcooked green beans are mushy.
Green beans provide less starch and protein but they have more vitamin A and vitamin C compared to dry beans. Green beans are a great source of vitamin K, manganese, potassium, iron, riboflavin, calcium, phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids, and niacin. Green beans are good for colon health. Green beans are also known to provide supportive nutrients like chlorophyll. It also provides phytonutrients (carotenoids like lutein, beta-carotene, violaxanthin, and neoxanthin), flavonoids (quercetin, kaempferol, catechins, epicatechins, and procyanidins). Anthocyanin flavonoids are found in purple green beans. These phytonutrients function both as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents inside the body. Eating green beans help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease. Professionals are also optimistic that the silicon content in green beans can prove useful in providing bone and connective tissue support. An area of interest for future studies is the potential of green beans’ silicon content to positively impact the lowering of risk of osteoporosis in post-menopausal women.
When Are Green Beans in Season in Texas?
To find out when Green Beans are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.