10 Facts On... Green Beans

By Philip McIntosh | Published: November 1, 2019
Key Takeaways

Green beans, pole beans, French beans, string beans, snap beans… whatever you want to call them, they are quite often green and they are beans.

1. The green bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, is a common annual found in gardens and on farms both large and small throughout the world.

2. Originating in the highlands of Central America, the green bean has been cultivated in that part of the world for thousands of years. Along with corn and squash, the climbing bean is one the Three Sisters of Mesoamerican agriculture.

3. The genus name Phaseolus goes way back in origin to a Greek word for “cowpea,” and from there ended up meaning “bean” (essentially) in Latin.

4. It’s always fun to run across a plant name attributed to Carolinus Linnaeus, the founder of binomial nomenclature. He classified the green bean as P. vulgaris. The specific epithet vulgaris means “common.”

5. A bean plant generally falls into one of two informal categories based on growth habit. The beans we are talking about are runner beans, also known as pole beans, as opposed to bush beans that have a much shorter and compact form.

6. There are more than 100 varieties of green beans, some tall, some short, some more suited to colder climates or less sun than others, some with fat pods, others flat or wrinkled. The pods containing the seeds come in shades of green, yellow, and purple, or may be multi-colored.

7. A closely related edible bean is P. vulgaris var. coccineus, known as the runner bean (for-merly P. coccineus), often grown for its vibrant red flowers.

8. The scarlet runner is a perennial, further adding to its attraction as an ornamental (so long as winters are cold).

9. What’s with the “string?” Before breeding programs pretty much eliminated it, bean pods had a tough fibrous string along one pod seam (hence the name string bean). In early culti-vars, and some of today’s heirloom varieties, the string still exists but can be removed (or the beans cut up) to make the pods more digestible.

10. Okay, what about the “snap?” One way to remove the string from a stringy bean pod is to snap off one end and pull on it to remove the string. A healthy fresh bean rewards the pre-parer with a satisfying snapping sound when de-stringing.

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Written by Philip McIntosh | Science & Technology Writer, Teacher

Profile Picture of Philip McIntosh
Philip McIntosh is a science and technology writer with a bachelor’s degree in botany and chemistry and a master’s degree in biological science. During his graduate research, he used hydroponic techniques to grow axenic plants. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he teaches mathematics.

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