Green beans can be eaten fresh in salads, pickled, boiled, steamed or grilled. They provide protein, fiber, beta carotene and vitamin C, according to the University of Illinois. Gardeners should plant green beans in full sun when all danger of frost passes. Green bean seeds are sensitive to cracking and should never be soaked before planting.
Green beans come in two main types: bush or pole. Bush beans are so-called because they can stand erect without support, producing beans off a bush. Pole beans need to trellis and cannot grow without support. Pole beans are easier to harvest since the beans are easier to see; bush bean pods can be difficult to spot in the dense foliage.
Both bush and pole type green beans grow readily from seed. Beans are sensitive to cold and require a warm soil to germinate. Plant seeds after frost danger passes for your area. Exact spacing depends upon the variety of green bean you're planting. In general, bush beans seeds should be spaced 2 to 4 inches apart in rows spaced 18 to 24 inches apart, while pole beans should be spaced 4 to 6 inches apart in rows 30 to 36 inches apart. All seeds can be planted at a depth of 1 inch.
Common varieties for planting include Blue Lake, Kentucky Wonder, Derby and Kentucky Blue. Flat green beans (like Romano) have an Italian heritage; French or European green beans produce a thinner pod than varieties like Blue Lake. Gardeners can find ornamental beans that have purple skin that turns green when cooked or yellow wax beans; all are members of the green bean family.
While bean plants have been around for centuries, early green beans were inedibly tough unless boiled for lengthy periods of time. The cook also had to remove the center string from the bean. Tender green beans originated in the 1800s as plant breeders tried to make a disease-resistant and flavorful bean. The first major breakthrough occurred in 1898 with Burpee's Stringless Green Pod; Tendergreen (1925) and Bush Blue Lake (1967) are other important advances in the flavor and texture of the green bean.
Pole beans have vining tendrils, making them easy to distinguish from other garden plants. The plants have teardrop-shaped leaves and thick stems. Beans develop from white or red flowers.