My Favorite Beans

pole-beans_colospgs-co_lah_4953If you planted green beans in May, and your garden survived our huge hail storm in June, you should be looking forward to your first harvest this month. While we sweat and complain about the record highs, beans like it hot and they’ve been growing like crazy.

There are hundreds of bean varieties, and even catalogs that specialize in beans of all sorts. I’ll share my favorites. Which ones are yours?

Bush Beans
Gardeners plant bush beans because they’re usually the first to mature, they need no strings to climb, and the entire crop is ready at the same time, making them ideal for folks who want to preserve their harvest.

My hands-down favorite bush bean is Jade. The pods are long and straight, so they’re easy to chop up in the kitchen. Flesh is tender, flavor is terrific. I haven’t had any disease or insect problems. The beans are high on the plant, making them easier to find and keeping them out of the mud.

I like wax beans. The yellow color stands out so the beans are easy to find. Pencil Pod was one of my favorites until the catalog I usually order from stopped carrying it. Again, I’m looking for round, straight, long, tender, and delicious.

Pole Beans
I prefer to grow pole beans for my main crop. Once started, they keep producing all summer. As the season progresses, the beans are formed higher and higher, which means I don’t have to bend over to pick them. My back is grateful!

It used to be that pole beans took longer to mature—after all, they have more growing to do. But several new varieties are just as early as bush beans.

My standard for the perfect pole bean is Emerite. Originally advertised as a filet bean, it can be picked while still skinny, or allowed to thicken to normal bean thickness. Either way, the beans are at least eight inches long! Just line them up on the cutting board, and whack them into bite-sized pieces, half a dozen at a time.

Kwintus is another very early pole bean, but this one is wide and flat, like a Romano. I think Romanos taste a little better, but they sometimes fail to mature in my high altitude garden. This one always gives me a crop. It was originally sold as Early Riser.

Dry Beans
While we enjoy eating dry beans, I don’t use up garden space to grow them. With our short season, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be mature before it snows again. Right now I just buy bags of beans at the market. Is there a variety that tastes better when homegrown, that anyone can recommend?

Other Beans
I tried growing garbanzo beans one year, but there’s only one bean per pod. Too much work, in my opinion. I’ve grown an early soy bean, intended for Edamame. My results were less than stellar. Not every summer is as hot as this one, and I think it just wanted to be planted someplace more torrid. Likewise, lima and scarlet runner beans take too long, at least according to the catalog. If I was going to push the growing season, I’d choose Yard Long Beans. Braised in soy sauce, garlic, and peanut oil… delicious!

I’d love to hear about beans I should be growing. Remember we have a very short growing season, with cool nights (typically under 65 degrees) and low humidity. Suggestions, please!

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