Green beans are an easy to grow vegetable that is popular with home gardeners. There are many varieties of green beans from snap beans to lima beans to pinto beans. They are all grown in a similar way.
First you must prepare your garden area for the green beans. Till the soil to a depth of eight to ten inches deep. Use a rake to break up any big clods and rake the soil smooth. Spread approximately two to three pounds of a 10-20-10 fertilizer per one hundred square feet and mix it into the top three to four inches of soil.
Beans are planted after all risk of frost is past in the spring. In the fall, they are planted ten to twelve weeks before frost.
Plant bush beans about one inch deep and about one to two inches apart. One quarter to one half pound of beans should plant 100 feet of row. After the beans sprout, thin them to two to three inches apart. The rows should be about two to three feet apart.
For pole beans, plant them on hills about three feet apart in each row. The rows should be about three feet apart, as well. Place a six to eight foot stake in the center of the hill and plant two to three seeds around each stake. Plant the seeds one inch deep.
Water the seeds in when planting. The beans will need to be watered once a week in dry weather. Water an inch of water at each watering to promote deep roots on the plants.
After the beans begin flowering and setting fruit, you will need to fertilize them again. Spread about 1/2 cup per ten feet of row between the rows of beans. Water the plants well after fertilizing. This will help your plants produce more beans.
Beans are ready to harvest when they are about the size of a pencil. If you let them get too big, they become stringy and tough. Pull beans carefully to avoid damaging the vines.
If you want to dry your beans, let the pods mature and dry on the stalk, then carefully harvest. Shell and let dry for an additional week or so before storing in glass jars out of sunlight and heat.
Fresh green beans can usually be stored about a week in the refrigerator. They can be blanched and frozen for longer storage, or they can be canned.
Green beans can be boiled in a small amount of boiling water until just tender, then served. They can also be steamed until just tender. They are a fair source of vitamins A and C when cooked in this manner. Do not overcook them or they will not taste good. Overcooking also destroys the vitamins in them.
Beans sometimes get fungal diseases when the weather is cold and cloudy. If splotches appear on the leaves or pods of the beans, use a fungicide such as neem oil or sulfur to treat them. Be sure and follow the label directions for the product you are using.
To retain the maximum number of health-promoting phytonutrients and vitamins and minerals found in green beans, we recommend Healthy Steaming them for just 5 minutes. This also brings out their peak flavor and provides the moisture necessary to make them tender, and retain their beautifully bright green color. It is best to cook green beans whole to ensure even cooking. For more on the Healthiest Way of Cooking Green Beans, see below.
Best studied from a research standpoint is the antioxidant content of green beans. In addition to conventional antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C and beta-carotene, green beans contain important amounts of the antioxidant mineral manganese. But the area of phytonutrients is where green beans really shine through in their antioxidant value. Green beans contain a wide variety of carotenoids (including lutein, beta-carotene, violaxanthin, and neoxanthin) and flavonoids (including quercetin, kaemferol, catechins, epicatechins, and procyanidins) that have all been shown to have health-supportive antioxidant properties. In addition, the overall antioxidant capacity of green beans has been measured in several research studies, and in one study, green beans have been shown to have greater overall antioxidant capacity than similar foods in the pea and bean families, for example, snow peas or winged beans.
Just as you might expect, the antioxidant support provided by green beans provides us with some direct cardiovascular benefits. While most of the cardio research on green beans involves animal studies on rats and nice, improvement in levels of blood fats and better protection of these fats from oxygen damage has been shown to result from green bean intake. Interestingly, the green bean pod (the main portion of the green beans that provides the covering for the beans inside) appears to be more closely related to these cardio benefits than the young, immature beans that are found inside.
While not documented in the health research to date, we believe that the omega-3 fatty acid of content of green beans can also make an important contribution to their cardiovascular benefits. Most people do not even recognize green beans as a source of omega-3 fats! While there is a relatively small amount of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in green beans, this amount can still be very important and is actually fairly large in comparison to the amount of calories in green beans. You get 1 milligram of ALA for every 4 calories of green beans that you eat. For every 4 calories of walnuts that you eat, you get 1.4 milligrams of ALA. So you can see that green beans—while not as concentrated in ALA as walnuts—are nevertheless an underrated source of this heart-protective nutrient.
The strong carotenoid and flavonoid content of green beans also appears to give this vegetable some potentially unique anti-inflammatory benefits. For example, some very preliminary research in laboratory animals shows decreased activity of certain inflammation-related enzymes—lipoxygenases (LOX) and cyclooxygenases (COX)—following intake of bean extracts. Because type 2 diabetes is a health problem that is known to contain a basic component of chronic, unwanted inflammation, we are also not surprised to see some very preliminary research in the area of green bean intake, anti-inflammatory benefits, and prevention of type 2 diabetes. (The very good fiber content of green beans most likely adds to the potential of green beans to help prevent this common health problem.) We expect to see more research in both of these health benefit areas (anti-inflammatory benefits and prevention of type 2 diabetes).
Commonly referred to as string beans, the string that once was their trademark (running lengthwise down the seam of the pod) can seldom be found in modern varieties. It's for this reason (the breeding out of the "string") that string beans are often referred to as "snap beans." Because they are picked at a younger, immature stage, "snap beans" can literally be snapped in half with a simple twist of the fingers. Although these bright green and crunchy beans are available at your local market throughout the year, they are in season from summer through early fall when they are at their best and the least expensive. You may also see them referred to as "haricot vert"—this term simply means "green bean" in French and is the common French term for this vegetable. This term can also refer to specific varieties of green beans that are popular in French cuisine because of their very thin shape and very tender texture
Green beans belong to the same family as shell beans, such as pinto beans, black beans, and kidney beans. In fact, all of these beans have the exact same genus/species name in science—Phaseolus vulgaris—and all can be referred to simply as "common beans." However, since green beans are usually picked while still immature and while the inner beans are just beginning to form in the pod, they are typically eaten in fresh (versus dried) form, pod and all. Green beans are often deep emerald green in color and come to a slight point at either end. Green bean varieties of this common bean family are usually selected for their great texture and flavor while still young and fresh on the vine. In contrast, dried bean varieties like pinto or black or kidney beans are usually selected for their ability to produce larger and more dense beans during the full time period when they mature on the vine. At full maturity, their pods are often too thick and fibrous to be readily enjoyed in fresh form, but the beans inside their pods are perfect for drying and storing.
Green beans and other beans, such are kidney beans, navy beans and black beans are all known scientifically as Phaseolus vulgaris. They are all referred to as "common beans," probably owing to the fact that they all derived from a common bean ancestor that originated in Peru. From there, they spread throughout South and Central America by migrating Indian tribes. They were introduced into Europe around the 16th century by Spanish explorers returning from their voyages to the New World, and subsequently were spread through many other parts of the world by Spanish and Portuguese traders. Today, the largest commercial producers of fresh green beans include Argentina, China, Egypt, France, Indonesia, India, Iraq, Italy, France, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United States.
If possible, purchase green beans at a store or farmer's market that sells them loose so that you can sort through them to choose the beans of best quality. Purchase beans that have a smooth feel and a vibrant green color, and that are free from brown spots or bruises. They should have a firm texture and "snap" when broken.
Store unwashed fresh beans pods in a plastic bag kept in the refrigerator crisper. Whole beans stored this way should keep for about seven days.
Many people wonder about the possibility of freezing green beans, or purchasing green beans that have already been frozen. Both options can work—green beans are definitely a vegetable that can be frozen. We've seen several research studies on the nutritional consequences of freezing green beans, and most studies show the ability of green beans to retain valuable amounts of nutrients for 3-6 months after freezing. If you don't have fresh green beans available on a year-round basis, purchasing frozen green beans can definitely provide you with a nutritionally valuable option.
If you wish to freeze green beans we recommend that you steam the green beans for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let them cool thoroughly before placing them in freezer bags and storing them in your freezer.
It is good to remember that the passage of time appears to lessen the concentration of multiple nutrients. There appears to be less nutrient loss at 3 months than at 6 months, and you may want to limit your freezer storage of green beans (whether frozen at home or pre-purchased in frozen form) to about 3 months for this reason.
Just prior to using the green beans, wash them under running water. Remove both ends of the beans by either snapping them off or cutting them with a knife.
We recommend Healthy Steaming green beans for maximum flavor and nutrition. Fill the bottom of a steamer pot with 2 inches of water. While waiting for the water to come to a boil, rinse green beans. It is best to cook green beans whole for even cooking. Steam for 5 minutes and toss with our Mediterranean Dressing and top with your favorite optional ingredients.