One of the best reasons to grow your own vegetables is superior flavor and freshness. Fresh green beans will not only adorn your plate, but your garden, too. Just choose varieties that will bring character and color to your garden with their bright flowers and interesting beans.
String or snap beans need warm soil (70 to 85 degrees) to germinate. Prior to planting, soak your seeds for a few hours. Water the planting bed, too, and don't water again until seedlings emerge. Plant seeds in rows about 2 to 3 feet apart, spacing the seeds about 2 inches apart and 1 inch deep. Use mulch or row cover to conserve moisture. "People tend to plant one round of beans. Plant a couple of rounds of them, three weeks apart, for harvest July to September," says Mary Alionis, owner of the Applegate Valley's Whistling Duck Farms.
Serves four (or two green bean lovers)
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in half
1/2 red onion, peeled and sliced thin
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar, available at Shop 'N' Kart, in Ashland
2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Gather all ingredients. Bring a 2-quart pot of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon sea salt. Add beans and blanch for 2-3 minutes. In the meantime, gather a large, stainless steel bowl with ice and water to shock the beans. This stops the cooking process. Remove from boiling water and place in the ice water. Drain and set aside.
Slice red onion and add to drained, green beans. In a small bowl, mix white balsamic with the lemon zest, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, extra virgin olive oil and vinegar. Toss the dressing over the beans and onions. Add remaining sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. This is a great make-ahead for picnics, too.
Recipe courtesy of chef Marilyn Moore, author of Is It Safe to Eat in Your Kitchen?
Pole and lima beans can be planted May through mid-June. Bush varieties can be planted through July. Make sure beans have full sun and access to air movement. Water them at the ground level to minimize soil-borne disease. During the hottest temperatures of summer, pods may not set as well, but keep watering and the pods will reappear.
"Filet or haricot verts are the best beans for home gardeners. Pick handfuls every few days to keep these small, tender, green beans producing," says Alionis. "Some beans are fussier, but 'Jade' beans are an excellent, high quality bean. They tolerate our hot days and cool nights."
"You can eat beans with every meal," says Ashland's Greenleaf Restaurant owner Daniel Greenblatt. He grows a variety of beans, including the attractive 'Scarlet Runner.' Many runner beans sport colorful blooms. 'White Lady' has pure white flowers, while 'Riley' has 10-inch long pods and showy rose-colored flowers. 'Scarlet Emperor' has bright red flowers while 'Fasold' and 'Cobra' have mauve flowers. For a dramatic bean, try 'Sunbright' with golden beans and foliage with small, red flowers.
Planted close together, bush beans will hold themselves up, but climbing beans need vertical support. Unlike peas, beans entwine themselves around fencing. "They're not good on fences," says Alionis. "To get them off you have to unravel or burn them." Instead, she says, mount a support with sturdy upper and lower bars and string jute or sisal rope for the beans to climb. When the season's over, remove the remains by cutting the strings and compost the vine and string together.
Unique beans include the long blue-purple 'Blauhilde' and yard-long beans, (Vigna sesquipedalis). Climbing to 12 feet, adorned with pale pink, or violet flowers (depending on variety) these pods can grow to 30 inches. Long, gold 'Goldfield' or green 'Imperial Greens' are interesting and tasty. Grow 'Golden Teepee' and 'Purple Teepee' for bright gold or purple beans which appear high on the plant, contrasting with dark-green foliage. It's easy to make a teepee by tying several bamboo poles together at the top, and planting beans around the circumference.
A food powerhouse, cultures worldwide have relied on beans for sustenance. These low-fat, protein-rich plants are full of B vitamins, iron, fiber and carbohydrates. From tiny bush to bamboo tower, beans are pretty to look at, easy to grow and delicious to eat.