Bean Recipes

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Beans of multiple colors mean a wider range of nutrients.

Bean recipes, like the beans themselves, can be loosely categorized into recipes for green/snap/string/wax beans, recipes for shell beans and recipes for dried beans. Bean varieties that can be used at all three stages give you the most options. Nearly all beans, however, are really best at one of the three stages. Rattlesnake is the only one I know of that is truly good as a snap, shell and dried bean. However, it’s best as a snap bean. Favas are best as shell beans. Garbanzos (which I now notice I forgot to mention in my list of varieties), limas and Borlotto are good as shell or dried beans. Black Turtle and Dark Red Kidney fall into the dried-only bean category. But within those three major groups there are hundreds if not thousands of different flavor, ingredient and texture variations. You can spend years sampling different recipes to find your favorites.

The easiest recipes are also the simple ones. For snap beans, string the beans if necessary, cut in one-inch pieces and cook in boiling water until tender. Butter lavishly. Ditto for shell beans, although you might want to try olive oil instead of butter. Soak dried beans overnight and cook in water or broth until tender.

Three-Bean Salad (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

  • ½ cup red wine or raw apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¾ cup olive oil (use the best-quality oil you can find – in a simple recipe like this one it really makes a difference)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces cut green beans
  • 8 ounces cut wax beans
  • 16 oz cooked kidney beans
  • ½ medium red onion, chopped
  • ¼ minced fresh parsley leaves

Heat dressing ingredients over medium heat, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Set aside to let cool. Cook beans in 3 quarts boiling water and 1 Tbs salt about 5 minutes. Blanch in ice water. Mix all ingredients and chill overnight. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.

Green Beans with Garlic

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, stems and strings removed
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Fill a large bowl with water and ice. Set this aside for blanching the green beans. In a large pot, bring water to a rolling boil. Add your beans and steam for 3-4 minutes. Immediately drain the green beans and add them to the ice water until completely cool. While waiting for your green beans to cool, start melting butter in a pan on medium heat. Add your olive oil and garlic. Drain the green beans as best as you can and rest them on paper towels. Once the garlic is starting to sizzle, add the green beans to the pan and toss them to coat in the oils. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and remove from the heat. Add the Parmesan and serve immediately.

Carrot-Bean Salad

  • 1/2 cup baby carrots, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 cups fresh-cut green beans
  • 1/4 cup chopped radishes
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted

Cook carrots in a small amount of boiling water for 4 minutes. Add beans; cook 4-5 minutes longer or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Drain; chill in ice water. Drain and pat dry, then place in a large bowl. Add radishes and onion. Whisk the lemon juice, oil, sugar, mustard, garlic, salt and cumin. Pour over bean mixture; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until serving. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Green Bean Casserole

  • 2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly-sliced
  • 1/2 cup Panko or sourdough breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon each fine sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat a large stockpot of water over high-heat until boiling. Meanwhile, trim and cut the green beans. Then add the beans to the boiling water and cook for 3-5 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your green beans. (Keep in mind that the beans will cook more in the oven, so err on the side of undercooking them to your taste during this step.) Then use a slotted spoon or large strainer to transfer the beans immediately into a large bowl of ice water, and give them a quick stir. This will prevent them from cooking longer. Set aside. Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter (or olive oil) in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is partially cooked but still holds its shape. Transfer the onion to a clean bowl. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter to the sauté pan, along with the panko, and stir to combine. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the panko is lightly golden. Remove from heat, and transfer the panko to the bowl with the onions. Add in the Parmesan, salt and pepper, and toss the onion mixture until evenly combined. Set aside. Briefly rinse and dry the sauté pan. Then return it to the stove. Melt the butter over medium-high heat. Then add the mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and soft. Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until fragrant. Stir in the flour and sauté for 1 more minute, stirring occasionally. Then add in the vegetable stock, and stir until the flour is evenly dissolved. Add the milk and Parmesan, and stir to combine. Continue cooking the sauce until it reaches a simmer and thickens. Then remove from heat, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Combine the green beans and mushroom alfredo sauce in the stockpot, and stir the green bean mixture until evenly combined. Transfer to a 9 x13-inch baking dish, and spread the green bean mixture out in an even layer. Sprinkle evenly with the crispy onion topping mixture. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the crispy onion topping is golden and crispy. (Keep an eye on it so that it does not burn. If it does start to char, simply lay a piece of aluminum foil on top of the casserole.) Remove from the oven and serve warm, garnished with extra freshly-cracked black pepper (plus maybe some parsley) if you’d like.

Green Beans With Crispy Bacon & Herbs

  • 3/4 pounds green beans, trimmed
  • 3 strips pastured bacon, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or grass-fed ghee

Using a pot and steamer basket, boil water and steam green beans until tender (about 4 minutes). While green beans cook, add bacon to a frying pan and fry until golden brown and slightly crisp. When bacon has finished cooking, stir in garlic and salt and cook until garlic browns slightly. Remove from heat. Drain water from the steamed beans and rinse with cold water if desired. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and serve.

Green Bean Fries

  • 12 ounces green beans
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp paprika (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F and make sure your green beans are dry and snipped (the fibrous end cut off). Combine the grated Parmesan cheese with the seasonings on a shallow plate and mix to evenly disperse everything. Whisk an egg in a bowl large enough to drench the green beans in. Drench a handful of green beans in the beaten egg and let the excess drop off for a few seconds. Gently press the green beans in the Parmesan cheese mixture and sprinkle some cheese over. Toss gently with your hands. Place the green beans on your largest, greased baking sheet making sure they have room on all sides to crisp up in the oven. Bake for about 10 minutes, checking to see that the cheese has become slightly golden. Let the green beans cool until they can be handled. Serve with some spicy mayo or ranch.

Cheesy Garlic Green Beans

  • 1 pound green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Parmesan cheese shredded
  • 1 tablespoon (four small cloves) minced garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese shredded

Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Arrange green beans on baking sheet in a single layer. Set aside. In a small bowl mix together olive oil, Parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper. Drizzle the oil mixture over the green beans and toss to coat. Bake for 20 minutes until vibrant and tender-crisp. Remove from oven and top with the mozzarella cheese. Return to oven and broil (or grill) until the cheese melts and becomes golden (about 4-5 minutes). Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve immediately.

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Bean Varieties

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There is no way I could possibly begin to tell you about all the bean varieties out there. These are beans with which I have personal experience:

  • Rattlesnake – OK, I admit, I’m prejudiced. I love this bean. It tastes absolutely wonderful, it bears very heavily and it’s pretty. It supposedly came from the Cherokee Indians and is at least 100 years old. Also known as the Preacher bean, Rattlesnake is thought by some to be an ancient Hopi variety related to pinto beans. The appearance of the buff-colored dried bean with darker stripes bears out the theory. In my garden, it continues to produce all through the summer and fall, until a good hard frost finally lays it low. The purple streaks disappear when it’s cooked. It also makes a good green shell bean and can be dried to use in the same way you would a pinto bean. Unlike many pole beans, which tend to bear on the upper stems, in my experience it will set beans from top to bottom. Make sure you have a tall, strong trellis for this extremely vigorous pole bean as it will easily grow to 10 feet. Heat and drought resistant, Rattlesnake typically starts producing at about 65 days and will continue to pump out beans until frost if kept picked. Rattlesnake can be substituted for Borlotto in the fresh shell or dried version, although the flavor is not quite the same.
  • Kentucky Wonder/Old Homestead – Its first name was Texas Pole, when it was advertised in the 1864 Country Gentleman magazine. When J.H. Gregory offered it in 1877, they changed the name to Kentucky Wonder. Very tender, productive and has a good flavor. There’s also a yellow pole variety called Kentucky Wonder Wax that has a slightly different flavor.
  • Lazy Wife – this one is probably a German immigrant, and has been around since at least 1882. The name comes from its habit of setting lots of beans in clusters, which makes them easy to pick, and because – unlike the older pole snap beans – it’s stringless. Stringing beans is time-consuming, and a busy ranch wife would just as soon pass on that little chore. It’s another pole bean that will reach for the sky and keep right on going. Broad beans with great, rich flavor. Also makes a good shell bean.
  • Blue Lake – developed in the Blue Lake district near Ukiah, California, then taken to Oregon where they were re-selected. The first commercial variety was developed by the Asgrow Company in 1962. They’ve been hybridized and have a lot of sub-varieties. Available as both bush and pole varieties, and the bush variety will set multiple harvests, which most bush varieties won’t.
  • Pencil Pod Black Wax – the bean is yellow, but the seed is black, which is how it got its name. This is a snap bean, very tasty, with good-sized beans that still stay tender. It’s also an early bean, and may begin producing as early as 50 days. Although Pencil Pod Wax is usually sold as a bush bean, I find it more of a half-runner type. It will easily grow to three feet and produces over a long period of time – a characteristic more common to pole beans than bush beans. Unlike pole beans, it doesn’t twine very well, but it’s really too floppy to grow as a bush bean. You’ll have to tie it to or weave it through the trellis if you use one, which I do. The taste, earliness and productivity make it worth the effort in my book. It was a cross between Improved Black Wax and Black-Eyed Wax and was first marketed in 1900.
  • Pinto – this bush bean is the classic for refried beans, burritos and many other Mexican dishes. The name comes from the Spanish: frijole pinto, or speckled bean. This is another one that’s been around for thousands of years and it was probably an Aztec variety. Technically a bush bean, but it sometimes acts like a half-runner. Select seeds from the short, erect plants to help it keep its bush qualities. If you prefer the half-runners, trellis it as you would the Pencil-Pod Wax and select seed from those plants.
  • Mountain Pima Pole – In general, I prefer pole beans and I had always wanted a pinto pole bean; I searched for one without success. Two years back I ran across this heirloom. The dried beans are a little smaller than their bush bean counterparts but the taste is identical. I haven’t grown it long enough to have a good sense of its productivity.
  • Kidney – this is the classic deep red/brown bean used for chili. The English coined the name in 1551 because of the shape. Once dried, they’ll store just about forever. Like many beans, these originated in the Americas, most likely in Peru. Many people don’t realize that these beans contain a compound called phytohemagglutinin. They absolutely must be soaked and cooked before eating unless you want the diners to develop severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Do not cook them in a slow cooker at low temperatures, as this can increase the concentration of the toxin. Instead, soak overnight and boil for at least 30 minutes before simmering in a pot on the stove or in the oven.
  • Garbanzo – this bean probably gets the prize for oldest known bean. It’s been around for at least 7,500 years and originated in the Middle East. You may know it as the chickpea, or ceci bean, and of course, as the primary ingredient in hummus. The Romans loved them roasted as a snack. Many people don’t know they come in green, black and beige varieties.
  • King of the Garden Lima – an 1883 heirloom introduced by a gentleman named Frank S. Platt. The vine will grow 8 to 10 feet and the beans are big. It yields heavily, right up until frost. I’m the only person in my family who likes lima beans, so I don’t grow a lot of these, but it’s worth it to have fresh lima beans a few times during the summer. You can also dry these on the vine – the pods are huge but usually only have two or three beans in each. Makes great succotash.
  • Henderson’s Bush Lima – unlike many bush beans, this one keeps bearing until frost. Great flavor. Most people describe it as buttery, although the beans are on the small side. Introduced 1889. Good for canning, freezing and drying as well as fresh.
  • Borlotto – Despite their close association with Italy and Mediterranean cooking, these beans actually originated in Colombia, where they were called Cargamanto beans. Similar in appearance to the pinto bean, they have a lighter and nuttier flavor. Although no one knows exactly when this bean originated, similar large bean seeds found in Peru have been dated to 2,300 BC. Borlotto beans are a descendant of the original Cargamento variety, bred to have a slightly thicker skin. The original name was actually Borlotti, but these beans are also called cranberry, Roman, saluggia and rosecoco beans. To really make things confusing, they are also known as Romano beans; they look nothing like the green, flat-podded Romano bean with which most gardeners are familiar. Borlotto beans are used as fresh or dried shell beans.
  • Blauhilde – another very tall pole bean, Blauhilde is as productive as Rattlesnake. With a name like Blauhilde, it’s pretty obvious the bean is Germanic in origin. “Blau” means blue and “hilde” translates as battle. These deep purple beans are more like a Romano in shape, with slightly flattened pods that can easily be 10 inches in length. They are even still reasonably tender at that size, although I prefer to harvest at about six to seven inches. They are not as colorful once cooked – the pods turn a sort of olive green.
  • Tarbais – technically, Tarbais beans must be grown in France, in the far southwest region of Gascony and only in the Adour valley. François de Poudenx, the abbot of the Cistercian Abbey Sainte-Marie de Pontaut, in Pontaut, Gascony, is credited with introducing the Tarbais bean to France in 1709. They originated in the Americas, however. These are the classic bean for cassoulet. Very expensive to buy (assuming you can find them in the stores), they are easy to grow. The skin is thin, which gives the bean its famous mouth-feel, and easily digested. They are also lower in starch than many other dried beans.
  • Cannellini – Supposedly native to Argentina, the cannellini bean eventually made its way to Italy, where it became synonymous with minestrone soup. They were being grown in the US by the 1800s. A type of kidney bean, this variety is grown only for the mature dried bean. While you can eat it as a green bean, I wouldn’t bother – too many better varieties out there. The tuscan region of Italy, whose inhabitants are often referred to as “mangiafagioli,” or “beaneaters” by the rest of their Italian brethren and sistern, cooked beans like these in heavy glass flasks, left to stew in the fireplace ashes overnight. It’s hard to find cannellini pole beans, but the hunt is worth it – they are better tasting, in my opinion.
  • Black Valentine – another bush bean but green in color. A true bush rather than a half runner like Pencil Pod Black Wax, it’s about two feet tall and usually loaded with bright green, very tasty beans. The beans are stringless at all stages. Introduced by 1897 in Peter Henderson.
  • Mung – mung beans are not your typical bush beans. For one thing, they are Vigna radiata rather than Phaseolus vulgaris, and related to cowpeas and adzuki beans. Originating in India, It is at least 4,500 years old; it was known in the US by 1835 and known as the Chickasaw pea. The pods are very narrow and almost square in shape, with ridges running the length of the bean. The primary reason I grow them is to have fresh bean sprouts.
  • Beurre de Rocquencourt – A French wax bean, named for the town of Rocquencourt, near Versailles, France. Probably descended from the wax beans introduced into France from Algeria in the 1840s. High yields and early bean sets with great flavor.
  • Roc d’ Or – another French import, this one has a more delicate flavor than its cousin Beurre de Rocquencourt and a more restrained growth pattern than Pencil Pod Black Wax. It’s slightly less productive as well. However, it will germinate in cooler soils rather than sulk the way many beans do and it often produced beans within 53 days.
  • Cherokee Trail of Tears – This bean is named for the forced migration of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee and Seminole tribes from their homes in the Deep South to Indian territory (primarily Oklahoma), between 1830 and 1850. Estimates are that 4,000 people died on the Cherokee Trail of Tears, but many more died in other tribes and as a result of the wars preceding the forced relocation. Cherokee Trail of Tears is used as a fresh, shell and dry bean, with the dry bean the best-tasting of the three forms. The beans are black and relatively small compared to other pole beans.
  • Black Turtle – probably native to Mexico, and known there as frijoles negros. Around 7,000 years old, according to some estimates. It’s really not very good as a fresh bean, although it can be eaten that way. It tends to be tough unless you pick the beans when very small.
  • Scarlet Runner – runner beans are Phaseolus coccineus, rather than Phaseolus vulgaris like most garden bean varieties. Native to Mexico and other highlands in Central America, this bean is actually perennial in its homeland. Came to the US in the 1700s and is often planted as a hummingird attractor. Likes cool, humid regions, which makes it a favorite bean of the English, used fresh. The pods are bigger than typical fresh pole beans and the bright red flowers are huge. In the right conditions, vines will grow 20 feet or more. Flowers prolifically and is often grown for its ornamental qualities rather than to eat. These beans have a taste somewhere between Romanos and regular pole beans – it’s not what I would call a delicate flavor, but they are still good. They cook better if cut in lengths about one to two inches in size.
  • Monte Gusto – My favorite pole wax bean. A filet bean (thinner pods) with a much better flavor than any wax bean, pole or bush, that I’ve tried. Although it is open-pollinated and I’ve seen it described as an heirloom, I haven’t been able to discover any details about its history or origin. Very productive.
  • Gold Marie – This is a yellow version of the Romano bean. The flavor is fine but I did not find it to be very productive in my garden conditions, so after a couple of years I quit growing it. It needs plenty of moisture and a steady supply of water to produce well, unlike Rattlesnake, which is drought-tolerant. I suspect it would also do better in summers that are not as hot as ours.
  • Helda Romano – Romanos make a nice change in terms of flavor, size and shape from the typical string bean like Rattlesnake or Black Valentine. This one is a pole variety, although there are plenty of bush Romanos out there as well. The Romano flavor is distinctly different – more intense and earthy. Otherwise you treat them exactly like their skinny round cousins.
  • Yard Long Beans – I have not grown these as I like the flavors of my usual bean varieties better (and doggone it, eventually you have to limit your garden size rather than trying to grow everything under the sun). I know they grow well in my area as I have friends that like them. One of their positive characteristics is that the beans really are much longer than typical snap bean varieties, so you can grow a lot more beans in the same space. They are used just as any other fresh snap bean.

As you may be able to tell from my comments above, if I could only have one green bean, it would be Rattlesnake. It’s tough enough to withstand adverse weather conditions, prolific, and tastes wonderful. Add that it can be used in all three stages: green, shell and dry. Maximum versatility here. Second choice would be the Pencil Pod Black Wax, which is equally tasty and prolific, as well as being yellow, so it offers color variety. Pinto would be my dry bean choice.

Green beans will give you lots of vitamin K. They are also well-supplied with manganese, vitamin C, dietary fiber, folate, vitamin B2, copper, vitamin B1, chromium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, choline, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), niacin, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, vitamin B6 and vitamin E. Green beans also have silicon, which we need in bones and connective tissue. Dried beans provide minerals like molybdenum, copper, phosphorus, iron, potassium and magnesium, protein, folate, fiber and vitamin B1.

Next post – the recipes!

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Beans

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Beans, beans, the musical fruit; the more you eat, the more you toot. The more you toot, the better you feel. Let’s have beans for every meal!

Beans Vs. Grains

While grains – and especially wheat – are often touted as the staff of life, I suspect that it was beans that really formed the backbone of many ancient civilizations. Unlike grains, many beans could be eaten raw, fresh off the vine, shelled or dried. They stored exceptionally well and were higher in protein. In fact, many ancient beans survived because of their storage qualities. Beans provide the essential amino acid lysine, which is low in many grains. They are loaded with fiber, and in diets where fresh fruits and vegetables were available only at certain times of the year, beans helped keep our ancestors from constipation. In terms of yield, planting 500 grain plants (rice, barley, oats, wheat) will give you about 15 pounds of edible food. The same amount of bean plants yields closer to 85 pounds. The spacing for both kinds of plants is the same – about six inches.

There are thousands of bean varieties. When John Withee – the Bean Man – tried to find the Jacob’s Cattle beans he remembered from his childhood to grow in his 1960s garden, he was not at first successful. So he started looking, not only for Jacob’s Cattle but for other varieties he remembered. By the time he died, his seed collection contained 1186 different varieties. Withee was also the driving force for Wanigan Associates, a group dedicated to saving, growing and sharing heirloom beans. When John died, he left his bean collection to the Seedsaver’s Exchange, which took over the job of growing, maintaining and sharing beans from Withee’s collection.

Beans Around the World

You can find beans in nearly any color, in pole, half runner and bush varieties. They vary from the thin, square-podded mung bean of bean sprout fame to the dense green ovals of favas and the creamy ivory of the famed Tarbais pole bean. Each cuisine known to humans has examples of specific beans that are an integral component of a particular famed dish. The French have the aforementioned Tarbais, Cocc de Paimpol and Lingot du Nord. In Italy, you’ll find Fagioli Bianchi di Rotonda, Fagiolo Cannellino di Atina, romano and borlotto beans. The English have fava or broad beans and love their runner beans (Painted Lady, a bicolor red and white, has been around since 1596 and was named for Queen Elizabeth I). Fava beans are also associated with Mediterranean cookery, although they probably originated in Afghanistan or the Himalayas. Every Native American culture has its traditional beans, from the tepary and Anasazi beans of the southwest American deserts and the Arikara Dry Yellow grown by the Mandan and the Arikara tribes of the Missouri Valley, to the Mayflower of the Iroquois. Mung, winged and adzuki beans originated in the Far East. In Africa, people ate the Iru or African locust bean, African Yellow or bambara groundnut beans and cowpeas – which are beans despite the name. Within each country, state and region there are many other varieties grown and prized by individuals, families, clans, tribes and ethnic groups for their taste, storage qualities, drought resistance or just because they were pretty. In addition, beans are self-pollinating annuals, so keeping varieties true across the centuries was not nearly as difficult as preserving something like broccoli or squash. With the advent of hybrid beans, the number of available bean varieties expanded yet again.

How to Grow Beans

Beans are very easy to grow. Bush beans typically produce one crop, after which you can pull them for something else in the same space. Pole beans grown for dried beans basically just need to be planted, watered and harvested, but they do tie up the ground for the full season. Pole beans do require stakes or a trellis, but the extra work means a longer productive period for fresh snap or shell beans. It also means double the harvest (pound for pound) of fresh beans compared to bush beans as long as you keep the vines picked and well-watered. While beans fix nitrogen in the ground, they will do better with added compost. I’ve never really had any major problems with insect pests, although I understand people in parts of the country where bean beetles abound would tell a different story.

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