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When to Harvest Beans (It’s so easy!)

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Growing green beans, whether the pole or bush varieties, is one of the easiest vegetables in the summer garden. But when you should you begin harvesting these summer favorites? Find out when to harvest your green beans for tender pods!

If this is your first time growing pole beans or bush beans, fear not! I have a full tutorial on How to Grow Pole Beans, and many of the same concepts, except for the trellising, can be applied to growing bush beans.

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Harvesting Green Beans

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.

How to Know if a Bean is Ready to Harvest

  • 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. 
too big green beans
Beans that have gotten beyond the tender stage

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? This will ensure less stringy-ness and toughness. They will be easier to cook and a much better size for canning or freezing. (Want to know how to freeze green beans? Check out my full tutorial here.)

long lean green beans

How to Pick Green Beans

  • Picking the beans is easy as pie. Follow these steps for harvesting:
  • Grasp the top of the bean and notice the little stem that connects the bean to the main vine. Break off the bean at the stem.
  • You don’t want to damage the vine or plant, so watch out that you don’t pull too hard on the bean before it’s truly been broken off. This could cause the vine to come off the trellis, or even the bush to pull from the ground.

picking beans

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. See my DIY Bean Teepee Tutorial for instructions.

Not only are the teepees trellising 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!

How-to Grow Guides

Learn how to grow all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and herbs in the home garden with my How to Grow guides!

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