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What are String Beans?

By B. Schreiber
Updated May 16, 2024
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String beans are the edible fruits of the bean plant, or the plants themselves. They are called string beans because of a fibrous string that runs along the length of the pod, which is usually removed before eating. The namesake string has mostly been bred out of modern varieties that are now found in supermarkets or garden supply stores. Commonly known as green beans, though they can be yellow or purple, pods are usually five to eight inches (12-20 cm) long. They are also known as snap beans because they can be snapped in half when they are at their freshest.

The names of string beans varieties usually refer to the type of plant they are grown on. Some string beans grow on low, bushy plants, typically from 12 to 24 inches tall (30-60 cm). The plants and beans are referred to as bush beans for this reason. The variety known as runner beans or pole beans are taller, bear beans on vines, and are trained to grow, or "run" up poles or other supporting frameworks. The two plants produce similar beans, but there is some variation among different breeds.

String beans are a member of the species Phaseolus vulgaris. Unlike other members of this species, such as black, red, or kidney beans, string beans are eaten in the pod before they are fully mature, when the seeds have not fully formed. These common beans, as they are sometimes known, are members of the Leguminosae family, and known as legumes. Like all beans of this species, they were first cultivated in South America and spread throughout the world after becoming known to Europeans.

Green beans are a popular garden plant that requires very little maintenance and will yield abundantly. They are a summer plant and have little tolerance for the cold temperatures of late spring and early autumn. Like other legumes, string beans are a nutritious source of fiber and protein, and prized for their taste when freshest. String beans also come in yellow and purple-colored varieties.

Some bean plants mature within a relatively fast fifty days, which is one of the reasons for their common presence in home gardens. Pole beans are known for having a longer production period, but bush beans can bear for weeks. Harvesting beans regularly can increase their production and cause them to bear beans longer.

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Discussion Comments

By bear78 — On Jun 05, 2014

@ddljohn-- The terms string beans and green beans usually refer to the same thing. But sometimes "string beans" can refer to a thinner, longer variety of fresh green beans. It can also refer to cowpea / southern pea beans (vigna unguiculata). Cowpea isn't a string bean but it looks very similar so some people refer to it that way.

By ysmina — On Jun 04, 2014

The green beans in the US don't usually have the string anymore, but the ones in Europe still do. I was in Europe last summer and decided to make a stew with string beans. I didn't remove the strings because I didn't realize they were there. I could not eat the green beans when the stew was ready because the strings kept bothering me.

Some string beans have such thick strings that unless you basically cut out the sides, they don't completely peel off. So I'm glad that the string beans in the US don't have strings. It makes life easier.

By ddljohn — On Jun 03, 2014

I was wondering the difference between string beans and green beans. Now I know, they're the same thing!

My family used to grow green beans in the garden when I was young, along with tomatoes, cucumbers and other summer vegetables. I remember from that time that green beans are very easy to grow. But it's important to keep an eye on them. Like the article said, they grow fast. I remember once, we didn't check the vines for a week and the beans had become too large, almost too mature to eat. So they need to be checked daily.

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