Such a huge topic; so many fun kinds of beans to grow! In this post, I’ll stick to regular old snap beans; bush and pole, also known as green beans or string beans–although they come in several colors from yellow wax to purple. Beans are an annual, warm-season vegetable. Many beans are grown only for the seed, but the snap beans are grown for their pods. Of the two, bush beans are the easier to grow because they require no trellising. Beans are another crop that grow well by seed directly sown in the ground or started indoors. You should put the seedlings in the ground after the last frost of the spring which is March 15 in the South Bay. Three weeks or so after those first seeds go in the ground, plant round two so that you can have a continuous harvest. If the seed inside the pod is protruding, you should have picked those beans sooner.
Pole beans are climbers. If you’ve ever seen a bean teepee, these were the beans. Because beans grow fast, this is a great activity to do with children.
Beans are fun to pick. They hide themselves in plain sight. Although we eat most of our veggies raw, right as we pick them, green beans taste better to me when they are flash cooked in the microwave. I pick them, cut them in thirds, and put them in a glass measuring cup of water for three minutes in the microwave. Just a handful of cut-up beans are enough for a dinner side vegetable. The color brightens (the purples turn to green), and they are just crisp enough to taste fresh. Never overcook vegetables. Always err on the side of underdone.
The leaves of beans are like velcro. When I have kids over and show them my beans, I ask if they need a “bean name tag.” You can pick a leaf off of a bean plant and stick it on your clothing and it will stay-put indefinitely.
When the beans are spent, you know you can save the seed if you can shake the old pod and it sounds like a rattle snake might sound. I have not tried to cook the beans I’ve saved from the spent pods. From what I understand, the dried beans’ flavor is nothing to brag about. Because yummy varieties of dried beans are so cheap to buy in bulk, that’s what I do. But never say never. Some day I might just have to eat them, and I’ll be glad I saved them.