The green beans that I ate growing up were pole beans – thick, starchy vegetables that grew on vines and produced huge numbers of beans that stored well. They were the staple of many a Southern garden, growing on vines so tall that you needed a stepladder to harvest the ones at the top. Although my grandmother knew how to season them just so, I never learned the trick to making pole beans taste as good as Grandma’s.

Steamed green beans

Bush beans make easy, delicious side dishes to just about any meal!

Photo Credit: Mary Moore

Young bean plants

Your bush beans will germinate within a week and grow quickly into small bushes covered with bean pods.

Photo Credit: Mary Moore

Interplanting vegetables

While larger plants are establishing, consider using the space in between to grow quick-growing veggies like green beans, radishes or salad greens.

Photo Credit: Mary Moore

Then I discovered bush beans. Tender, with a delicate taste and no strings, they’re easy to grow and cook – and delicious to eat! Bush beans are determinate plants (meaning that they grow, flower and produce beans in a short, determined time span). They can be green, yellow or purple, and they’re sure to add a variety of textures and color to your dinner plate.

Some varieties you may want to try include: Pencil Pod, a yellow wax bean with a sweet flavor; Tendergreen or Tendergreen Improved, both flavorful green varieties that can be frozen or eaten fresh; Blue Lake 274, known both for flavor and high yields; and Maxibel, a French variety with long, thin pods. Whichever you choose, I’ll bet you’ll be pleased with the beans you grow!

The real secret to growing bush beans with a minimum of care is to prepare the soil by adding compost and manure or granular fertilizer. Another key is to plant the beans as soon as the last frost has passed. (Early planting allows the bush beans to grow and produce food before the bugs have a chance to find the plants.) Plant the seeds 4 inches apart and about 1-1½ inches deep in full sun. Water and check for pests, and in 50-60 days you should be enjoying the bounty. (Just be sure to harvest before the pods start filling out for the best flavor.)

My favorite way to prepare bush beans is so easy: Just rinse them and remove the ends. Then cut them into bite-sized pieces, about 1½ inches each. Steam the beans until just tender. You can use an electric steamer or a saucepan with a steamer insert, but my favorite way is to put the beans (with no added water) in a covered reheating container and microwave for 3-4 minutes. This leaves the beans tender and tasty, but still bright green with a crisp texture.

After steaming the beans, I add about 1 tablespoon of almonds for every 2 servings of beans (but feel free to adjust for taste). Add a thin slice of butter or margarine and about a tablespoon of lemon juice, then heat the beans in a small casserole dish just long enough for the butter to melt. Serve with just about any main dish – bush beans complement all kinds of meat, chicken and pasta dishes. They’re a great vegetable – especially when they come from your own garden! Bean appétit!