French (Green) Beans

French Green Beans

Green beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), also known as kidney or snap beans, are popular as a side vegetable and very easy to grow. Most types are best eaten as pods, although some varieties can be left to develop as haricots. As a bonus many varieties have attractive flowers, which make it a delightful addition to the flower border or a patio container.

How to Cook >> Popular Varieties

Growing Conditions

Soil Type: Best in a fertile, well drained, loam that has been manured in the previous season.

Conditions: Full sun.

Ease of Cultivation: Easy

Type: Legume (podded) vegetable.

Hardiness: Frost tender.

When to Sow: Spring to early summer.

Harvest Season: Late summer to autumn.

Planting and Growing French Green Beans

Grow in an open, unshaded situation. Climbing forms will need support and shelter from cold winds. Both dwarf and climbing varieties are well suited to container growing, although climbing beans will need a cane wigwam or similar support.

Preparation

Green beans thrive in a deeply dug, fertile soil. As legumes they produce their own nitrogen but they still like a humus rich, moist soil, and benefit from added potash. Apply a general fertilizer a few weeks before sowing or planting.

When to Sow

Sow directly in drills 6-12 inch (15-30 cm) apart, depending on variety, from May onwards once the soil has warmed. Space rows 18 inches (45cm) apart. The soil needs to be above 10°C for germination to occur, any lower and the seeds will die.

For an early crop, sow in trays or modules under cover from March onwards. Harden off and plant out once all risk of frost has passed. Space at 6-12 inch (15-30 cm) apart, depending on variety. Alternatively, they can be sown early under cloches that have been left out a few weeks previously to warm the soil.

Taking Care of French Green Beans

Protect plants from late frosts. Keep weed free and water copiously during dry periods.

Support climbing varieties on canes, as you would for runner beans. Dwarf varieties usually don't require support.

Feeding every few weeks with a liquid tomato type fertilizer to keep production going.

Pests and Diseases

Not prone to many problems but the young growth can be affected by aphids, slugs and snails. The seeds can be stolen by mice. Can be affected by a fungal diseases.

Harvesting & Storing French Green Beans

Harvest as soon as they are ready, from July up to the first autumn frosts, usually about 8 to 10 weeks after sowing. Pick before the bean seeds start to swell, unless you are growing haricots. The pods should be about 4 to 7 inches (10-18cm) long when ready, depending on variety. Pick regularly to ensure continuous flowering and cropping.

Green beans are best cooked and eaten as soon as possible after picking, as they don't store well. They are best frozen for long term storage.

If you are growing haricots (dried beans), just leave the pods on the plant to swell. Pull up the plants once the pods are fully mature and hang indoors to dry; until the pods go brittle and begin to split. Shell the beans then further dry on a rack and store in an airtight container.

Freezing French Green Beans

Most of the young green varieties are good for freezing. Top and tail and cut into 1-2 inch (2-5 cm) lengths. Blanch for 2 minutes. Drain and cool before packing into freezer bags or containers and freeze. They should keep for up to 12 months in the freezer. Cook from frozen for 5 - 7 minutes.

How to Cook French Green Beans

For pods, wash thoroughly, top and tail (trim off the stalk and bottom end) and boil in a saucepan of lightly salted water for 5-10 minutes. Drain well before serving.

They are also great in stir frys.

Dried haricot beans need soaking overnight (8 hours) before cooking. Drain and cook in lightly salted water for 40 minutes until tender.

Nutritional Value

Green beans are a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, also folic acid and fiber.

Popular Varieties of French Green Bean

Types of green beans include climbing, dwarf, flat, pencil-podded and coloured (green, yellow, red, purple). The yellow waxy pod varieties have a particularly good flavour. The climbing varieties are highly productive for a small area.

Climbing Bean

Climbing Bean 'Algarve' produces straight, flat, mid green pods, of 10in (25cm) length. Available at Marshalls.

Climbing Bean 'Blauhilde' produces colourful stringless, purple, fleshy pods that can be picked continuously from July to October. Good resistance to Bean Mosaic Virus. Height 70in (180cm), spread 12in (30cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Climbing Bean 'Cobra' is an easy to grow, RHS AGM variety, that produces continuous crops of smooth, round, stringless pods of around 7in (18cm) long, from as early as July, right through to the first frosts. Height: 180cm (70). Spread: 30cm (12). Available at Marshalls. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Climbing Bean 'Cobra' (RHS AGM variety) produces heavy crops of smooth, round, stringless green pods, about 7in (18cm) long, with good flavour. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Climbing Bean 'Fasold' is an attractive climbing variety producing displays pretty mauve flowers, followed by bumper crops of long, rounded, stringless pods with a rich green colour and good flavour. Height 70in (180cm), spread 12in (30cm). Available at Van Meuwen.

Climbing Bean 'Firetongue' produces flattish pods that are heavily splashed with reddish streaks which disappear on cooking. Use the fresh young pods as flageolet beans (semi-mature pods with succulent seeds), or allow them to mature and ripen for use as haricot beans. Height 70in (180cm), spread 12in (30cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Climbing Bean 'Mamba' is a mid-green, stringless bean that takes up less space than most other varieties. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Climbing Bean 'Monte Cristo' (New variety) produces tender, bright green pods, up to 10in (25cm) long. Available at Marshalls. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Climbing Bean 'Monte Gusto' produces attractive pale golden pods that taste as good as they look. Uniform crops are produced in heavy yields throughout the cropping season. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Climbing Bean 'Purple Cascade' bears high yields of attractive purple pods over a long period until the first frosts. The pods retain most of the colour when cooked. Available at Marshalls.

Climbing Bean 'Selma Zebra' (Heritage variety) is a highly decorative variety the even looks good in the flower border. Producing early maturing marbled pods that turn green when cooked. Height 70in (180cm), spread 12in (30cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Climbing Bean 'Solista' is a traditional Italian climbing Borlotti bean. Available at Marshalls.

Climbing Bean 'Sunshine' produces long golden pods that reach up to 7in (18cm) long. The slender pods are stringless and stand out nicely against the bright green foliage. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Dwarf Bean

Dwarf beans are compact plants. Ideal for growing in containers or smaller plots. Bush varieties won't need support.

Dwarf Bean 'Annabel' (Award of Garden Merit) is a high yielding variety with slim stringless pods of about 4in (10cm) long. Available at Kings Seeds.

Dwarf Bean 'Amethyst' (Kew Collection Seeds) is a compact variety producing a succession of tasty, slender purple pods, over a long picking season. Height 24in (60cm), spread 12in (30cm). Available at Marshalls. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Dwarf Bean 'Boston' (RHS AGM variety) bears straight, round 6in (15cm) long, dark green pods with excellent flavour. Ideal for growing in containers. Height 18in (45cm), spread 12in (30cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Dwarf Bean 'Caledonia' ia a compact variety with a high yield. Ideal for confined space or patio container. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Dwarf Bean 'Castandel' produces high yields of long slender pods. Provides extremely good germination and outstanding performance. The pods have a classic flavour and fine texture. Available at Marshalls and Mr Fothergills.

Dwarf Bean 'Concador' bears slender, straight, colourful yellow pods over a long season. Compact and disease-resistant. Good disease resistance. Height 18in (45cm), spread 12in (30cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Dwarf Bean 'Delinel' Dwarf Bean 'Delinel' is an outstanding variety for both crop yield and flavour. The 15cm (6) mid green, stringless beans are of superb quality with dark black seeds within the pods. This RHS AGM variety has a long season if picked regularly. Good disease resistance. Height 18in (45cm), spread 12in (30cm). Available at Marshalls. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Dwarf Bean 'Tendergreen' is an early maturing, compact variety that produces bumper harvests of smooth-skinned, stringless pods with a fresh tasty flavour. An early cropping type with a long harvesting season. Height 18in (45cm), spread 12in (30cm). Available at Van Meuwen.

Dwarf Bean 'Impero Bianco' (Cannellini Bean) bears creamy yellow pod of large white cannellini beans that are delicious when added to soups and casseroles. Compact and late maturing. Height 18in (45cm), spread 12in (30cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Dwarf Bean 'Laguna' produces an abundance of 5in (12cm) fleshy, intense green pods. This weather proof variety has superb vigour and excellent disease resistance. Height 18in (45cm), spread 12in (30cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Dwarf Bean 'Mascotte' is a compact, floriferous 'daisy' type, perfect for small plots and container growing. Each plant produces a mass of flowers, leading to 5-6in (13-15cm) slender, mid-green, stringless pencil pods over a long season. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Dwarf Bean 'Maxi' is a compact dwarf variety, producing quick maturing, long green pods, up to 8in (20cm) long. Available at Marshalls. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Dwarf Bean 'Mistic' is a purple podded 'daisy type', producing an abundance of slender pods, at the top of the plant. Attractive dark leaves, purple stems and flowers. Harvest June-October. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Dwarf Bean 'Nautica' produces an attractive display of pale purple flowers, followed by a prolific crop of 3in (8cm) long pods. The dark green pods are very fine and stringless, with a delicious flavour. Ideal for the patio or vegetable plot. Available at Marshalls. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Dwarf Bean 'Nomad' (RHS AGM variety) produces plentiful crops of straight, stringless, dark-green pods reaching up to 5in (12cm) long, with an outstanding flavour. Good disease resistance. Height 18in (45cm), spread 12in (30cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Dwarf Bean 'Opera' is an early maturing Kenyan-type bean that produces a good crop of slim, dark green 4in (10cm) stringless pods over a long cropping season. Good disease resistance. Height 18in (45cm), spread 12in (30cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Dwarf Bean 'Primavera' is a high yield variety, bearing glossy, green straight pods that are full of flavour and easy to pick. Good resistance to disease and adverse weather conditions. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Dwarf Bean 'Purple Queen' on of the best purple varieties, producing high yields of long, slim pods of good flavour. Available at Suttons and Mr Fothergills.

Dwarf Bean 'Satelit' produces great tasting stringless pods of good texture. Available at Marshalls and Mr Fothergills.

Dwarf Bean 'Sonesta' is an early maturing variety producing waxy yellow beans on compact plants. The colourful pods are slender, straight and stringless, reaching up to 5in (13cm) long. Good resistance to disease. Height 18in (45cm), spread 12in (30cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Dwarf Bean 'Speedy' is one of the earliest and quickest beans to produce a harvest. Bears high yields of fleshy, mid-green pods, approximately 6in (14cm) long from July onwards. Height 18in (45cm), spread 12in (30cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Dwarf Bean 'Splendido' (Borlotti Bean) is a very attractive variety, bearing 5in (13cm) pink-red pods of cream and red streaked Borlotti beans in the autumn. The immature pods can also be harvested and used as French beans. Height 18in (45cm), spread 12in (30cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Dwarf Bean 'Voletta' produces excellent yields of straight, bright yellow pods with a crunchy texture and a delicious flavour. Heavy yields over a long season, with regular picking. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

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