There are self-supporting bush beans, field grown bush beans, and pole beans that require a trellis. Bush beans produce all at once. Pole beans produce less at once but over a longer period of time. In short — if you are canning, you want bush; if you are eating fresh off the plant, you want pole.
Most beans have been hybridized to come in both types — snap beans are readily available either way. At Cole Canyon Farm, essentially a mobile greenhouse, we prefer bush types to sell because they hold longer in a jumbo six pack tray and they aren’t clinging to the rafters of the truck by the time we get to market. In our garden, we grow both types.
Now, to color. Snap beans (they used to be called ‘string beans’ but the string part has been bred out of them) come in green, yellow, purple and speckled. The green beans cook up green, the yellows (often called wax beans because they have a slightly waxier texture) cook up yellow, and the purple cook up green. The speckled retain their speckled appearance somewhat.
Soy Beans: If you buy Edamame or Butterbeans from us, you are also buying a fresh, bush bean. The Edamame or Butterbean is a soy bean.
Dried Beans: Dried beans are beans that you plant and allow the beans to dry on the plant to be picked in fall and stored. Dry beans include black beans, pinto beans, cranberry and cowboy beans, scarlet runner beans, and – my favorite – any white soup bean (aka dried lima beans, Italian flageolet, cannolini, and navy beans) are so good with kale, shrimp, escarole, and/or ham hock – you get the picture. The cannolini is the basic bean in the holiday cassoulet with pork butt, sausage, duck or goose confit, and more herbs than you could ever imagine (mostly thyme).
We don’t have room for enough dry beans to make it worthwhile, so I make an annual trek to Phipps Country in Pescadero every year and stock up on dried beans. They grow beans and also import a variety of dried beans from African and South America. It’s worth a trip to check them out and while you are in Pescadero, stop by Harley Farms and try their goat cheese and other related accouterments.
Fresh Green Beans: You can grow these beans if you have a warm growing environment and if you like beans. If you don’t like beans, it will all seem like an amazing waste of space. For my money, fresh green beans are one of the most essential food stuffs we grow.
Scarlet Runner Beans: These beans are a dramatic addition to any garden. They produce a large, stunning bean that can be eaten fresh but is usually dried and they present vivid red blooms for weeks. We have actually planted these beans in a long box in front of a bedroom window to serve as a summer privacy curtain! Lovely and useful. A string trellis works fine.
NEW: New this year for us are the Velour Fillet Bean, a gorgeous soft black long bean, and the Concador, a yellow wax fillet bean.
Pick up bean seedlings at the Aptos Farmers Market! Cole Canyon Farm offers vegetable and herb seedlings for the home gardener at regional certified farmers’ markets. Their plants are grown from organic or untreated seed, without the use of pesticides, growth stimulants or retardants. For more information, visit their website.