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Green Beans

Phaseolus vulgaris

History of Green Beans

The green bean originated from Central and South America. One way green beans were spread was by indigenous people migrating and bringing the beans with them on their journey. It is said that Native Americans would grow them among their corn so that the beans climbed the stalks. The other way that green beans were spread out of Central and South America was by Columbus on his second voyage in 1493. This allowed for green beans to be brought to Europe and the “New World”. Within Columbus’s diary he described the bean in detail. Green beans later became popular in places like Italy, Greece and Turkey when they were taken back by  voyagers.

Oregon State University’s Strand Agriculture Hall in 1911.

Importance to Oregon

Green beans were brought to Oregon around 1923. By 1952, Oregon grew about 10,000 acres of green beans. Oregon was a major leader in perfecting green beans from being tough and stringy to soft and flavorful. Oregon State University had a leading role in breeding green beans and by the 1950’s almost all of the grown green beans were stringless, white seeded varieties. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there were 12,200 planted acres of green beans in Oregon in 2016.

Types of Green Bean Plants

There are two common types of green bean plants, "pole" beans and "bush" beans. Within the two types of plants, there are several distinct differences and numerous varieties of green beans.

Pole Beans

Pole beans grow vertically and can reach 6-8 feet in height. Pole beans need trellises, or some form of support system to climb. They are desired in gardens, because they take up less space and are easy to harvest by hand.

Bush Green Beans

Bush Beans

Bush beans tend to grow from about 1-2 feet in height. These beans prefer warm to hot weather and require less labor intensive care compared to pole beans. Bush beans produce all at once, which is ideal for mechanical harvesting and is why they are often used for commercial purposes.

Planting, Growing and Harvesting Green Beans

Sprouting Green Beans

Planting

Green beans are usually directly seeded into the field from April to May. They should be planted two to three inches apart and one inch deep. Green beans typically take about 45-60 days to mature. Plants do not tolerate cold weather, so they are planted after temperatures rise to about 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Growing Green Beans

Growing

Green beans need plenty of sunlight and some warmth. They also prefer a well-drained loam soil. Green beans need to be watered about an inch per week. Do not over fertilize, as this will reduce the number of beans a plant produces.

Green Bean Harvester

Harvesting

Green beans are ready to harvest around three weeks after flowering. Pole beans are picked by hand and should be picked regularly to keep production thriving.

Many growers use a mechanical harvester to harvest bush green beans instead of picking by hand. Green bean harvesters are efficient, significantly increase production compared to hand picking and decrease labor costs. One set back of the mechanical harvester is that the plant can only be harvested once.

A green bean harvester works by running the plant through a machine that combs it. This action strips the beans off of the plant and puts them on conveyor belts where they are sorted from debris. The resulting beans are then placed into crates, that will later be distributed.

Once at the processing plant, green beans are drum blown to remove excess material. After excess material is removed, they are washed, sorted and cut. Finally, green beans are inspected and put into cold storage before being distributed.

Green Bean Nutrition

Green beans are rich in antioxidants and are fat free, sodium free and low calorie. They are also a good source of fiber and calcium. Follow the link for a more detailed analysis of nutritional information. https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide/green-beans 

Uses of Green Beans

Green beans can be used and prepared in many different ways. They are typically sold frozen, fresh and canned. They also may come prepared in halves, sections or other ways that are convenient for consumers.

Brook Rieman/Moment/Getty Images

Where are Green Beans Grown in the United States?

The United States produces a large amount of green beans. Most green beans are commercially produced in the South, West Coast and Midwest. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, it is imperative that green bean operations are located in close proximity to processing plants, so that they can be delivered as quickly as possible after harvest.

Caramelized Spicy Green Beans Recipe

Ingredients

1 pound fresh haricots verts (tiny green beans)

Yield: Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

1 medium-size red bell pepper, sliced

1/2 medium-size sweet onion, sliced

1 teaspoon peanut oil

3/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

Directions

Cook haricots verts in boiling salted water to cover 1 minute; drain. Plunge green beans into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain well, pressing between paper towels. Stir together brown sugar, soy sauce, and dried crushed red pepper. Sauté bell pepper, onion, and green beans in hot peanut oil in a large skillet over high heat 3 to 5 minutes or until beans look blistered. Sprinkle with seasoned salt. Remove from heat; add soy sauce mixture to green bean mixture, and stir to coat.

Recipe courtesy of MyRecipes.

Fun Facts

  1. Each green bean pod contains about 4-6 beans.
  2. There are bush and pole varieties.
  3. It is an annual plant.
  4. Green beans are the most popular garden plant in the world.
  5. The pods are picked immaturely for tenderness.

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