You may thing that string beans are a bit boring, just green vegetables that are supposed to be good for you. Take a look at the beautiful purple podded varieties, however. Not only are they decorative ornamentals in the garden, they have a delicious taste when cooked. Vigorous and cold-resistant, purple podded pole beans are a rewarding vegetable in any garden.
These sturdy bean vines grow to 6 to 7 feet high with purple-tinged foliage. They bear 5- to 7-inch pods colored violet to purple to a deep wine red, depending on the variety. Most are round in the cross section, but some varieties have flat pods. There are also smaller, bush-types available.
Most varieties of purple podded beans are heirlooms passed down through families for generations. Sometimes the original variety name has been lost and the bean is only known by a personal or family description. The string bean simply known as "purple podded pole" was discovered in the Ozark mountains by Henry Fields in the 1930s. Others are imports from Europe, such as Blauhilde from Germany.
There are number of varieties available from specialty seed companies, though only a few are found in mainstream catalogs. "Purple King" and "Purple Podded Pole" are two of the most common. Others include "Violet Podded Stringless," "Blue Coco" and "Blue Marbut."
Purple podded beans are more tolerant of cool soil than green beans, but still should be planted after the soil temperature reaches at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant the seeds 1 inch deep, 2 to 3 inches apart in nutrient-rich soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.0 Provide support for the vines with a trellis of wire or string. Keep the pods picked to stimulate production of more flowers and pods. Daily picking also allows you to get the pods before they grow large and stringy.
Purple podded beans may be cooked fresh, canned or frozen. Late sowings can be allowed to ripen for dried beans used in bean soup or other recipes.