As with many things in life… bigger isn’t always better. This rings true for many things in the garden, beans included. I wish I would have known this tidbit when I first started. I waited to pick zucchini until they were the size of my arm. Those “arm-sized” zucchini also came with seeds the size of jellybeans. (side note: those big zucchinis aren’t total wastes… they’re great shredded up in zucchini bread!)
While the kid in me still gawks at those quirky enormous pumpkins and other overgrown vegetables, the truth is most large vegetables don’t make for very good eating. The larger a vegetable grows, the tougher it can be, and who wants to chew a green bean or piece of okra for several minutes? Not me.
Young and tender are the key words for most veggies in your summer garden. And those bush or pole beans you’ve been growing are no exception. Once you notice those tiny beans appearing, keep your eye on them. They grow quickly and can soon become too big.
What to Look For:
You want lean but full beans that are firm to the touch. Avoid waiting too long to pick when the seeds inside are bulging and the bean has become stringy. The beans below are too large and you can tell the seeds inside are big as well.
Look for a nice lean bean. It should be firm (not soft and squishy) but also not have overgrown seeds like the beans above. The bean below is ready to be picked. Notice the uniform thickness? Let’s hope it makes it inside before it’s eaten! The little gardeners around here like to pick off the beans and munch them on the spot. There’s nothing like getting a little fiber in between jumps on the trampoline. They eat many more vegetables straight out of the dirt or off the plant than they will on their plates at the dinner table. So, I’m not going to complain too much about their garden grazing.
Picking the beans is easy as pie. Simply grasp the top of the bean and notice the little stem that connects the bean to the main vine, then simply break off the bean at the stem. You don’t want to damage the vine, so watch out that you don’t pull too hard on the bean before it’s truly been broken off. Fill up a bowl (or shirt) full of these babies and cook them up for dinner. There’s a hundred different ways to prepare fresh green beans, and I’ll be sharing our sautéed green bean recipe later this week. These beans are just too tender to boil!If you’re thinking about what beans to plant next year, these particular beans are Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans, and we’ve been pleased at how well they’ve grown The plants shot right up our bean teepees, which created a lovely vertical element to our garden, and not only are they producing beans, but since the area at the bottom of the teepee is shaded, I’ve planted spinach there. I love testing out ways to combine planting areas.
I’d love to know what type of beans you prefer to grow. Our lack of garden space makes pole beans the obvious choice, but I love hearing about what works for others. Happy Gardening!