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When and How to Harvest Green Beans (It’s so Easy!)

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String beans, snap beans, green beans… whatever you want to call them, growing green beans, whether the pole or bush varieties, is one of the easiest vegetables in the summer vegetable garden. If you’ve been growing green bean plants in your garden, but aren’t sure when to harvest, I’ve got you covered!

Green beans love full sun and the heat of summer; and planting time can vary based on where you live, so how do you know the best time to harvest? There are definite things to look for before you know if it’s the right time to harvest. Find out when to harvest your green beans for tender and not stringy and tough pods!

If this is your first time growing pole beans or bush beans, fear not! I have a few full tutorials on growing green beans pods in the garden!

  • How to Grow Pole Beans: From start to finish (or seed packet to table) how to grow Pole varieties of beans at home.
  • How to Grow Bush Beans: For more compact gardens, bush beans are a good choice. They’re my favorite way to grow in a row garden or higher raised beds. 
  • DIY Bean Teepee: With just a few garden stakes and garden twine you can create the perfect growth habit for pole beans. Check out the full tutorial or pin it to use later. 

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 in a multitude of recipes, just see my post Recipes for Large Zucchini!)

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.

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How to Know if a Bean is Ready to Harvest

Depending on the variety of beans you’re growing (yellow beans, runner beans, dragon tongue, etc.), each will have an estimated time to harvest. This information can be found on the back of the seed packages or plant tags if you’ve purchased seedlings. 

Always check this information as a first source of info about the growing season of the beans you’ve grown. Here are the signs to look for to know if the beans you’ve grown are ready:

  • You want lean but full beans that are firm to the touch. (Skip the skinny ones that feel flat.) 
  • Avoid waiting too long to pick when the bean seeds inside are bulging and the bean has become stringy. 
  • Avoid beans that have black spots or other signs of disease. 

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. 

too big green beans
Beans that have gotten beyond the tender stage
long lean green beans

How to Pick Green Beans

Once you know that your harvest season is approaching, use these easy steps for picking your green beans. Follow these steps for harvesting:

  1. The first step is to grasp the top of the bean and notice the little stem that connects the bean to the main vine. 
  2. Break off the bean at the stem, or use a pair of sharp pruners to snip the stem from the plant.
  3. Avoid damaging the whole plant or vine, 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

Now, let’s talk about good harvesting containers for picking green beans, and how to store them once they’re harvested.

picking beans

​Great Harvest Containers for Green Beans

​Harvesting green bean pods from your bean patch can be so much fun. One pole bean plant or bush bean plant can yield quite a few beans at a time. So here are some of my favorite harvesting helps no matter what bean varieties you’re growing. 

  • DIY Dollar Store Harvest Basket: This is an easy harvest container that uses 2 containers from the dollar store. They last for several years and gives you a chance to wash your beans outside and save the water to put back onto your garden. So easy and cheap!
  • Roo Apron: I love my Roo Apron since I don’t have to carry harvests around the garden in my arms. This wearable apron allows you to harvest and keep both hands free, and the bottom of the apron opens up for easy harvest removal!
  • Large Plastic Colander: If you have a large colander that you can take out to the garden, then this is a great idea for harvesting as well. It’s easy to clean and perfect for washing your bean harvest. 

Fill up a bowl (or shirt) full of these babies and cook them up for dinner! 

How to Store Harvested Green Beans 

To store freshly harvested green beans, follow these steps:

  1. Remove any damaged or spoiled beans, and wash the remaining beans thoroughly in cold water to remove any dirt or debris.
  2. Pat the beans dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to remove excess moisture.
  3. Choose a storage container that allows for airflow, such as a perforated plastic bag, a breathable produce storage bag, or a container with holes.
  4. Store the beans in the refrigerator to maintain freshness. Place them in the crisper drawer or in a perforated plastic bag in the main compartment of the refrigerator.
  5. Fresh green beans are best when used within a few days of harvest. Check them regularly for any signs of spoilage, such as wilting or mold, and discard any beans that have gone bad.

For longer term storage, consider freezing your green beans for use all winter long. (Want to know how to freeze green beans? Check out my full tutorial here.)

By following these steps, you can help preserve the freshness and flavor of your freshly harvested green beans for as long as possible.

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!

Leroy Robicheaux

Monday 14th of June 2021

What time do I harvest green beans morning or at anytime

Courtney

Saturday 19th of June 2021

Hi Leroy, I'd harvest in the morning. :)

Rajesh Patel

Tuesday 9th of July 2019

Hi I have a eggplant at home in pot it’s not growing long what fertilizer I can use? How much water is needed?

Courtney

Tuesday 9th of July 2019

Hi Rajesh, while I've never grown eggplants in pots, ours are just now starting to bloom, so your's may be right on time with growth. I like to use Fox Farm's Big Bloom fertilizer (https://amzn.to/2XD9sQH) once my eggplants begin blooming, since the fruit comes on these blooms. And eggplants do not like wet conditions, so let it dry out between waterings. I'm curious, is your eggplant indoors or out?

Kari Foster Allison

Tuesday 9th of August 2016

Let us know how the spinach is doing under the bean teepees? Great idea!