Whether bush or pole, wax or green, string beans are an essential part of any good vegetable garden. Their flavorful pods are rich in protein, and the plants fortify the soil with nitrogen—making them the best rotation crop to follow heavy feeders like tomatoes, potatoes and peppers. Replenishing legume crops are also wonderfully easy to grow, and there are so many varieties available, it’s always fun to and try new, interesting varieties each year in search of an even better bean.
Beyond American standbys, like ‘Blue Lake’ bush beans and ‘Kentucky Wonder’ pole beans, there are heirloom cultivars and European favorites galore. Many come in unique shapes, sizes, and colors making them that much more interesting at the table. Flavors vary considerably as well. Variability in pest and disease resistance also make trialing an important practice because you never really know how a new variety will perform until you actually grow it in your garden.
Through years of trial and error, I have fixed on several less commonplace bean varieties that are delicious, pretty and perform well in home garden. They include a selection of pole and bush types able to grow in gardens large or small.
Pole filet bean Émérite
Pole beans require a little more work because they must be trellised, but they are often more productive. The wonderful haricot verts pole filet bean Émérite, produces lots of slender, crisp beans that can be harvested in the baby stage or when fully mature at 7 inches. Either way, they are never stringy, and when roasted with butter and herbs they almost develop a meaty taste. As an added benefit, their pretty, leguminous blooms are pink. This outstanding bean can be purchased through John Scheeper’s Kitchen Garden Seeds.
Pole Bean ‘Green Anellino’
The unusual, curved pods of ‘Green Anellino’ (sometimes sold as ‘Anelino Verde’), are truly delicious, though the pods are small. This prolific pole bean originates from northern Italy and thrives in warm summer temperatures. Its beans are best picked when young and crisp. They have the deep, beany flavor of a larger, meatier Romano type. The plants are highly productive, producing beans into late summer and even early fall.
Pole Bean ‘Purple Podded Pole’
Slender, deep purple beans are the highlight of the ‘Purple Podded Pole’ bean. The long, vigorous vines start by bearing loads of purple-pink blooms followed by deepest purple fruits. Once cooked, the flavorful beans lose their purple color and turn bright green.
Bush Bean ‘Soleil Filet’
Mild, buttery wax beans have always been a favorite and the slender filet-type wax beans are often superior to beefier standards. An exceptional golden filet is ‘Soleil Filet’ (translates to “sun filet”). Offered by seed companies like Territorial and Vermont Bean Seed Company, its super straight, slender beans add exceptional color, texture and taste to summer bean salads.
Romano Bean ‘Super Marconi’
Of the Romano-type broad string beans, ‘Super Marconi’ has tender and stringless beans with very rich flavor. The large, flattened pods are deep green and vines are prolific, so expect big harvests. I get my seed from Franchi Sementi.
Tricolor Bush Bean Mix
Gardeners unable to decide on one variety may want to choose the Tricolor Bush Mix from Renee’s Garden Seeds. Each packet contains three bush bean varieties in equal proportions: golden ‘Roc d’Or’ haricot verts, purple podded ‘Purple Queen’ beans, and the perfectly straight, slender, bright green ‘Slenderette’ beans. All are space-saving, flavorful and pretty.
Growing String Beans
Only a few simple cultural requirements need to be met for successful bean growing. All string beans need full sun and fertile soil with good drainage. Pole beans require trellises of poles for best production and development. Fortifying your garden soil with Fafard Sphagnum Peat Moss will provide a good foundation for your bean beds. Additional amendment with Black Gold Tomato & Vegetable fertilizer is also beneficial.
Mexican bean beetles are the most common and destructive pests of green beans. In their larval form they are spiky, yellowish-orange, voracious bean destructors able to quickly devastate beans and plants, if beetle populations are too high. The adults look much like large, golden brown lady bugs and lay masses of orange-yellow, ovoid eggs on bean leaf undersides. The University of Florida’s Entomology Department offers a very good guide for the management of these pests as does Cornell’s Insect Diagnostic Page.
Where your tomatoes and peppers are growing this year is where you should plant one or more of these stellar bean varieties next year. Give at least one a try to hone your own “best bean” list your garden.