Monday, October 12, 2015

String Beans

A few days ago I was chatting with a new gardener, congratulating her on her successes. While her tomato crop was disappointing (so was mine this year) she had great crops of kale, chard, and spinach. Now she was ready to try growing other veggies. She wanted to try summer squash (an extremely difficult crop for my area) and sweet corn (another challenging crop). I suggested a few easier veggies, like beans, peas, and onions. We were soon deep in a discussion about all the various different kinds of beans. 

I learned something from my conversation, something new. New gardeners don't know why stringbeans are called STRINGbeans. My gardening friend though it was because they were grown on string trellises. Ya know.....pole beans that need support, thus growing them on a string trellis....thus "stringbeans". Ha! That's a good one! 

So what's your idea on why they are called stringbeans? Older gardeners and cooks most likely know the answer, but I wonder how many younger people do. Hint: it's not the trellis. 

Older original varieties of beans had "strings" along the seams of the pods that the cook had to remove  while preparing the beans for cooking. The more mature the pod, the more developed the string was. It was an easy task to pinch off the stem end and peel down the string, but it was time consuming. 

Because of the string problem, green beans were often picked as young as possible, hopefully before the string developed. Plant breeders noticed that some bean varieties were slower to make strings than others, and before long new varieties were developed that had reduced strings.......and soon, no strings. The gardener could wait to pick the beans until the pod was long and thick and still avoid strings. Cooks (and moms) loved them. 

I tend to refer to stringless pod beans as "snap beans". I used to say "green beans" but nowadays I grow plenty that are yellow, purple, or rosey red-- not green. So snap bean seems to be a better connotation to me. 


  1. More stories go around about "shellies" and "sugar pod vs. sugar snap", but I agree with you on just calling the green-type beans as snap beans. Yeah, I know there are wax beans, lima beans, navy's a long list!

    1. You're right, it's a long list. There are so many types of beans out there!