Cultivated in Central America and South America for perhaps thousands of years, green beans have a much shorter history in the rest of the world.
Read on to find out about some of the many varieties of green beans available today, and to learn how they have been integrated onto American dinner plates.
A Short History of the Green Bean
Green beans initially grew wild in Central America and South America, later becoming an important part of the cultivated diet of the region’s indigenous peoples. One example of their importance in their native culture is that they have been found in tombs dating back to the year 1000.
The green bean was brought back from the New World in the late 1400s by Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. It soon gained a foothold in the Mediterranean region, particularly Italy, Turkey and Greece.
From Mediterranean regions, the green bean was transported back across the Atlantic Ocean by other explorers, eventually becoming a staple in the American diet.
The Iconic Dish Featuring Green Beans
Green beans grow in two ways, either on bushes or vines. Bush bean plants can grow up to two feet tall, while vine-type green beans, called “pole beans” because they routinely are grown on long stakes, can ascend as high as 12 feet.
Whichever type of green bean makes it to your plate, it’s likely to be featured in the ubiquitous green bean casserole, a common presence at Sunday dinner and on Thanksgiving tables across America.
It may surprise you that green bean casserole is a relatively recent addition to the American dinner table, having been around for less than 70 years.
The recipe first appeared in 1955 on cans of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. It’s credited to Dorcas Reilly, a member of the soup company’s home economics department. Reilly had been asked to come up with an everyday recipe using cream of mushroom soup.
The Campbell’s Soup Company estimates that green bean casserole is served on 20 million Thanksgiving tables.
While the traditional green bean casserole recipe calls for cooked green beans, use fresh green beans for more texture.
Blue Lake Bush: The King of Green Beans
Any discussion of the myriad varieties of green beans should start with the Blue Lake Bush variety.
And for many growers and fanciers of green beans, the discussion might as well stop there. For them, the Blue Lake Bush bean’s crispiness and sweet flavor are unbeatable.
As an heirloom green bean, the Blue Lake Bush bean is grown commercially only by specialty growers. You might find Blue Lake Bush beans in your supermarket, but a farmer’s market may be a better bet for scoring a bag of these exceptional beans.
A favorite of home gardeners for decades, the Blue Lake Bush green bean is easy to grow, requiring little more than full sun and fertile soil.
As an added bonus, Blue Lake Bush beans mature at a uniform rate, meaning a whole crop can be ready for freezing or canning at the same time.
Blue Lake bush bean seeds can be purchased from one of our favorite retailers, Hoss Tools.
To learn more about growing your own Blue Lakes and ways to enjoy these tasty beans with your meals, read our blog post all about Blue Lake bush beans.
Kentucky Wonder: Favored Pole Green Bean
Another heirloom green bean with an enthusiastic following is Kentucky Wonder, a pole bean with vines that can stretch to eight feet high.
The name Kentucky Wonder wasn’t given to this green bean variety until 1877, but it had been around for decades prior to that under an array of names, including Eastern Wonder and Missouri Prolific.
The Kentucky Wonder pole bean is ranked as moderately easy for the home gardener to bring in a crop. It is renowned for its reliability in producing beans that can be enjoyed fresh, frozen or canned.
In addition, the seeds inside a Kentucky Wonder pole bean can be dried to become a prime bean for baking.
To grow your own Kentucky Wonder beans, visit Hoss Tools to purchase seeds.
Read our blog post on Kentucky Wonder pole beans for more information about growing, caring for, and eating your homegrown beans.
Roma II: A Tender and Meaty Green Bean Variety
As you might guess, the Roma II green bean is an Italian-style variety, with pods that are broader and flatter than other green bean varieties.
To enjoy maximum flavor, Roma II plants should be harvested when the beans are about five inches long. Be warned that it’s easy to overcook Roma II beans, so be careful with them in the kitchen.
One simple way to enjoy Roma II green beans is to sprinkle them with olive oil, black pepper and a bit of Parmesan cheese.
You can bring Italian green beans into your garden by ordering Roma II seeds from Hoss Tools.
Want to know more about growing your own Italian green beans and the best ways to enjoy them as part of your meals? Read our blog post on Roma II green beans.
Tendergreen: Your Hot Summer Green Bean
If you’re looking for a green bean suited to hot summers, you’re talking about the Tendergreen variety.
Long recognized as a superior performer in the summer garden, the Tendergreen is an excellent choice if you want to put fresh green beans on your table in hot weather.
Also, if you want to have a meaty, stringless green bean available throughout the year, the Tendergreen is noted for its success as a frozen green bean.
You can buy Tendergreen seeds at True Leaf Market to enjoy fresh beans during the summer and well after bean season has ended.
Check out our blog post on Tendergreen beans for all you’ll need to know about growing, harvesting, and eating your own beans.
Maxibel: The Best of the Haricots Verts Varieties
In the special class of long, slender green beans known as “haricots verts,” the French term for green beans, Maxibel is among the finest examples.
Known for their amazing taste, Maxibel beans do require some special attention in the home garden to be fully enjoyed. To ensure that you’re getting the best of these exceptional green beans, you should pick them early and often.
If you don’t want to grow your own Maxibel beans, your best bet to find them is to check out your nearest gourmet food market.
Finding seeds for growing your own Maxibel beans will be a little trickier than other green bean varieties. If you can’t find them at your local nurseries or garden centers, you can order them from Amazon.
To learn more about growing and eating these delightful haricots verts, read our blog post on Maxibel green beans.
Porch Pick: Great Taste From a Small Space
If you’d like to have fresh green beans on your table, but don’t want to commit to rows of them in a backyard garden, don’t fret.
Just find some Porch Pick green bean seeds or plants to start your own container garden. Soon, you’ll enjoy a good fresh vegetable from your very own patio.
As an added bonus, Porch Pick plants will add a splash of foliage to your patio as you await your crop.
Porch Pick green beans aren’t as easy to find as other green bean varieties and they sell out quickly! Hoss Tools carries a varied selection of bean seeds, so you’re sure to find one that’s right for your garden.
We’ve got a blog post on Porch Pick green beans to walk you through growing your own container beans and also give you tasty recipe ideas.
Strike: An Amazing Stringless Green Bean
If you want fresh green beans, and you want them quickly, the Strike stringless green bean is what should be growing in your backyard.
Producing beans ready for picking in as little as 50 days, the Strike bean boasts a sweet flavor that also combines juiciness and crunchiness in a single green package.
The Strike green bean is popular with both commercial growers and home gardeners. In fact, chances are good that when you stop at a roadside stand to buy vegetables, you’ll be buying Strike green beans.
To grow your own Strike beans at home, visit Hoss Tools to order your seeds for planting!
Read our blog post on Strike green beans for all you need to know about growing, harvesting, and showcasing their flavor in your kitchen.
Wrapping up the Story of Green Beans
We hope this post has given you some new knowledge on the green bean, from its cultivation to its place on the table.
Want to learn more about beans? Visit our bean plants page to discover more about beans!
Thursday 23rd of March 2023
The best of green beans to Grow is a pole bean called FORTEX. They r great 4 canning n fresh. They grow long like 10" n very fleshy. Takes an older bean to produce seeds in the pods n when u get tired of green beans. U can leave them grow n get beans to can late season. Taste n texture is awesome n seeds r hard 2 find later in the season... because they r such a great producer!