Beans are one of the most popular vegetable garden staples, thanks to their easy growth habits, prolific production and nutritional value heightened by a generous protein infusion. But they are more varied in looks and taste than their traditional appearance suggests. Try growing green beans with subtle flavors that differ from the variety you usually cultivate. Plant bean types that produce pods and seeds with different hues. Venture out of your comfort zone and be open to new possibilities.
This variety is planted mostly as an ornamental because of its 1-inch, red flowers rather than the fruits' flavor. A climbing plant, it reaches from 12 to 15 feet tall and grows rapidly. The University of Florida describes the beans as having an edible "fair" quality because they can be brittle, stringy and course. The seeds are black or violet and red mottled and are substituted for lima beans.
Cranberry beans are pole beans with pods that are lipstick red or mottled with white. According to Local Harvest, this rare heirloom is one of the oldest American varieties, having been grown by the Abenaki Indians and frontier folk of what is now known as Maine. It is most widely grown in the northeastern United States and harvested in its dried form for use in stews. This bean has a milder, sweet flavor.
The National Gardening Association suggests growing this bush bean variety, which features purple pods that turn green when cooked. The pods, which have green interiors, grow to about 5 inches long and are stringless. They have a deep nutty flavor and are usually eaten fresh, stir-fried, canned or pickled.
Also known as Jacob's Cattle, this bush bean variety produces oval-shaped beans that are cream-colored on one half and maroon or mottled on the other half, resembling an Appaloosa horse. These beans are eaten as fresh snap beans or as dried beans. The plants grow up to 2 feet tall and are longer maturing, taking about 85 days. The full-flavored beans hold up well in dishes that are heavily seasoned.
These large, white shell beans are an Italian variety that first appeared in America in the early 1800s. They are related to the kidney bean and are a main ingredient in minestrone and salads. When eaten as dried beans, they have a nutty flavor and increase to more than twice their original size when cooked. They must be boiled for at least 10 minutes to remove toxins that cause gastric distress, but like other beans they are high in fiber and protein.