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University of Illinois Extension

Green Beans

March 19, 2009

Snap beans are a popular plant grown in most home vegetable gardens. They are easy to grow, taste good, and they are good for you, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"Snap beans are a tender, warm-season vegetable that are planted after danger of frost," said Jennifer Fishburn. "Depending on the variety, bush beans take 45 to 55 days to produce a harvestable crop, whereas pole beans begin to bear in 60 to 70 days.

"Snap beans are available in green, yellow or wax, purple, French or filet, Romano, and runner varieties."

There are two types of bean plants--bush and pole beans.

Pole bean plants climb on supports growing seven to eight feet tall. They are easily harvested and will produce a continuous supply of beans throughout the summer. Some common cultivars include: 'Blue Lake', 'Kentucky Wonder', 'Romano', and 'Kentucky Blue'.

Bush bean plants stand without support and grow one to two feet tall.

"They are the most popular because they yield well and are less work than pole beans," she said.

To ensure a continuous supply of beans, plant seeds every two to four weeks until early August. Some common cultivars include: 'Tender Crop', 'Provider', 'Top Crop', 'Roma II', and 'Royal Burgundy'.

"Snap beans were formerly called string beans because older varieties had a fibrous string running along the pod's seam," Fishburn explained. "Today's newer varieties are stringless. Look for cultivars which have a good-flavored bean combined with disease resistance."

Common problems of bean plants include bean leaf beetles, bean mosaic diseases, and bacterial bean blight. Other diseases include anthracnose, rust, and white mold.

"Bean leaf beetles cause holes in the leaves and sometimes eat the pods," she said. "Harvest is not affected if less than 20 percent of foliage is eaten."

Disease incidence can be reduced by growing disease resistant cultivars, good air circulation around plants, avoiding injury to plants, avoiding over-fertilization and control of weeds.

"Harvest beans when the pods are firm, crisp (snap easily) and fully elongated," she explained. "Length of the pod depends on the cultivar. Most are harvested when five to six inches long. Be sure to harvest before the seeds within the pod develop significantly, this is before you see the seed bulge. Pick beans when the plants are dry. Picking beans from wet plants can spread diseases."

Store fresh bean pods unwashed in plastic bags in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator for up to three days. Just before using, wash beans in cold water. Only the stem ends need to be removed. Serve raw or cooked. To retain the most nutritional value, cooking time should be brief.

"If you have an excess of green beans, they can be frozen, dried or canned," she said.

For preservation information, visit the University of Georgia, National Center for Home Food Preservation website (http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/).

"Green bean planting time is just around the corner," Fishburn said. "This summer, garden-fresh beans can also be purchased from a vendor at local farmers markets."

University of Illinois Extension's Watch Your Garden Grow website (http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/veggies/) has more information on growing and harvesting as well as recipes for beans.

Source: Jennifer Fishburn, Extension Educator, Horticulture, fishburn@illinois.edu

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