Types of beans: robust, heirloom & new varieties
Beans are enormously diverse. From old heirloom bean varieties to newly cultivated ones: there is a lot to discover!
If you want to grow beans in your own garden and are therefore looking for the right variety, you should first decide which type of beans you want to harvest. Most beans, Phaseolus vulgaris, are eaten with the pod. The so-called bush beans and pole beans are usually only harvested when the bean seeds inside the pod are at the ‘milk stage’ of ripening. The milk stage refers to the very first phase of ripening. Milk ripe bean seeds are processed relatively quickly, the seeds are dried and can then be stored for a long time afterwards. Alternatively, they can be used as seeds to plant some more bean plants next season. Another type of beans are the increasingly popular runner beans. Runner beans can be either harvested early with the whole pod or, if they are left to ripen longer, only the beans inside the pod are collected.
The common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, can be subcategorized into bush beans and pole beans. These subcategories refer mainly to the different growth characteristics. Bush beans grow in small, independently standing bushes, have a shorter harvest period and slightly less yield per plant. Bush beans can be planted much more densely than the more abundantly yielding pole beans that grow upwards with the support of a pole or a rod. Another subtype of beans are the wax beans, the yellow specimens of the bush or pole beans, that are particularly tender when harvested at the right time. Below is a list of the most popular green and yellow bean varieties (both bush and pole beans), dry bean varieties, broad bean varieties and runner bean varieties.
Are you unsure which type of bean is the best for you? Take a look at the end of this article first. We have compiled a brief summary, that will hopefully ease your decision making.
The following bush bean varieties have green pods and have the typical green bean characteristics.
- Amethyst: bears pods that are violet in colour; stringless variety with bountiful yields; compact growth; can be grown on the balcony.
- Bluevetta: develops pods in violet-black; intense, fine aroma.
- Boston: forms bright grass-green pods; abundantly yielding variety.
- Brilliant: a traditional variety with extremely long and stringless pods; robust in growth and very productive.
- Brown Dutch: an excellent variety; coffee brown seeds and green pods.
- Cropper Teepee: an early variety with elongated, stringless pods.
- Delinel: a popular French bush bean variety; very productive, stringless and excellent in taste.
- Dubbele Witte: a stringless, precocious variety; bright green pods with good taste.
- Dublette: this variety produces pods up to 20 cm long; very good resistance to fungal diseases; abundant harvests.
- Jutta: a stringless variety with good resistance to bean anthracnose and halo blight; abundant harvests.
- Maxi: a stringless and productive precocious variety; easy to harvest because the pods grow above the leaves.
- Pfälzer Juni: a stringless, extremely precocious variety; excellent taste with good texture.
- Primrose: bears very long, stringless pods (up to 20 cm); early ripening with large yields and a fine taste.
- Prinzessa: a light green variety with decent disease resistance; very productive.
- Purple Teepee: a stringless dark purple variety; very tasty; develops 15 cm long and delicious pods.
- Royal Burgundy: has stringless pods in dark violet to blue-black; crispy and rich in flavour.
- Speedy: an early bush bean variety with deep green pods; good resistance to bean anthracnose and halo blight.
- Talisman: a stringless, precocious variety with a superior aroma and delicate texture.
- Vanguard: bears dark green pods with striking white seeds; an Italian bush bean variety; very productive with a wonderful taste.
Wax beans: bush beans with yellow pods
The following bush beans develop yellow pods, which are very tender at the right time of harvest.
- Berggold: has stringless pods; an heirloom variety with a remarkable flavour and robust growth.
- Brittle Wax: ripens early; the seeds are speckled black; wonderful taste.
- Dickfleischige Wachs: a stringless wax bean variety, develops golden yellow bean pods with light-coloured seeds.
- Golddukat: a yellow bush bean variety with elongated, stringless pods; very good taste.
- Golden Teepee: an early ripening yellow bush bean variety with large harvests; the pods are easily accessible because they hang above the leaves.
- Hildora: produces bountiful yields; long and yellow pods; outstanding taste.
- Valdor: a deep yellow bush bean variety with stringless, very short pods; ripens early and produces large harvests.
- Wachs Beste von Allen: a traditional variety; long and bright yellow pods; excellent taste.
Pole bean varieties
- Blauhilde: a stringless, dark violet runner bean variety; exquisite taste; robust growth and resistant to various diseases.
- Algarve: an early variety with light green, stringless, distinctly long pods; the seeds are clearly visible in the form of bulges; excellent taste and very productive.
- Eva: a green runner bean variety that ripens early; very long pods (up to 30 cm); high yields and very good taste.
- Matilda: an early variety with elongated pods and fine texture; produces extremely large yields and has outstanding taste.
- Mombacher Speck: an abundantly yielding, stringless variety with green pods; a time tested classic.
- Neckargold: a stunning variety with elongated, light yellow pods; very fleshy, stringless pods with an aromatic taste.
- Rampicante S. Anna: an early runner bean variety with slightly shorter dark green pods; bears fleshy and stringless pods with good taste.
- Smeraldo: develops long runner beans with wide pods; light green, precocious pods; first-class taste.
Wax beans: pole beans with yellow pods
Wax beans are also available in the form of yellow pole beans.
- Anellino Giallo: a late variety from Italy with golden-yellow pods and red, small and adorably speckled beans; the pods are curved.
- Goldmarie: one of the first ever yellow-shelled runner beans; very fleshy and stringless; excellent taste; robust growth.
- Meraviglia Di Venezia A Grano Bianco: a precocious runner bean variety with yellow skin; abundant harvest; elongated stringless pods.
- Meraviglia Di Venezia: a broad bean variety with deep black beans from Italy; bountiful yields; late ripening; stringless, fleshy pods.
- Neckarkönigin: a traditional variety with fine texture and large yields; light green and elongated pods; very robust and resistant to the mosaic virus.
Dry bean varieties
The following varieties are particularly suitable for ripening and harvesting the beans.
Bush bean varieties to harvest dry beans
- Borlotto (rosso): a stunning bean variety with red and white dotted pods with late ripening, red to brown seeds.
- Borlotto Di Vigevano: produces abundant harvests; stringless and speckled in cream and red.
- Canadian Wonder: a typical ‘kidney bean’ variety; bears large yields of beans with excellent taste.
- Cannelino: a well-known Italian white bean; long semi-flat pods that turn yellow-green when fully ripe.
Pole bean varieties to harvest dry beans
- Borlotto Lingua Di Fuoco 3: bears pods with charming fire red speckles.
Broad bean varieties
Broad beans, Vicia faba, also often called fava or faba beans, used to be widespread. Today they are more often to be found on weekly farmer markets than in supermarkets. Similarly to bush beans and runner beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), broad beans belong to the Papilionaceous family. In contrast to their relatives, broad beans are part of the genus commonly referred to as vetches. Depending on the variety, they can be harvested from the end of May to the beginning of August. The whole pods can also be consumed when harvested young. Later, once the beans inside start to ripen, they can be harvested too (either right at the milk stage or when they mature fully).
Early and medium early varieties
- Dreifach Weisse: a bean variety most likely named for its white flowers and similarly white seeds; very popular and widespread variety; Dreifach Weisse bean seeds are tasty and tender.
- Osnabrücker Markt: a tried and tested variety with very light-coloured seeds.
- Witkiem: bears long, thick pods with tasty white beans.
- Hangdown Grünkernig: a medium to late, heirloom and abundantly yielding variety; produces delicate luscious green beans.
- Hunsrück: a very large bean variety with yellow to beige seeds.
- Listra: a rich in flavour bean variety that bears delicate and tender seeds.
- Perla: extremely popular; delicate beans with an excellent aroma; green seeds.
- Piccola: bears green seeds in slightly narrower pods; characterized for its rapid growth and reliability; large yields; resistant to bean anthracnose and many other fungal diseases.
Variety for cultivation on balcony or terrace
- Robin Hood: a very popular variety; does not grow too tall; produces exceptionally tender beans with a delicious aroma.
Exotic beans: runner beans, mung beans, cow pea and other
Phaseolus coccineus or runner beans are well suited for gardens with humid and cool weather. These types of beans do not do well in hot climates. Runner bean pods are coarser than common garden beans and their pods and seeds grow larger. In addition, the pods usually become fleshier. However, if picked early, the pods remain relatively tender and can be consumed. Both the pods (for example in a stew) and the beans (either milk ripe or dried) can be eaten. We recommend the following varieties:
- Preisgewinner: a vigorous variety; tolerates harsh climate conditions well.
- Red Rum: a hybrid variety that produces numerous small pods; resistant to mildew.
- Weisse Riesen: robust and resistant in regions with harsh weather; suitable for cold climate; bears long fleshy pods with strings.
While ‘Preisgewinner’ and ‘Red Rum’ flower red, ‘Weisse Riesen’ bloom in white.
The mung bean, Vigna radiata, is also referred to as green gram and is either eaten as a dry bean or as a seedling. There is not much variety on the market for either type of use.
The cow pea, Vigna unguiculata, which originates from the old world, and belongs to one of the oldest crops to be cultivated by humans. It forms very long slender pods, which can be eaten just like green beans.
Too many to choose from?
Well, by now you know that beans are impressively diverse. If you are overwhelmed by the enormous variety and are finding it hard to choose, think about what kind of beans you want to harvest and eat.
- Would you like to eat beans with their pods? Choose bush beans or pole beans.
- In damp and cool weather: Grow runner beans.
- Would you like to harvest beans to use dried, like kidney beans? Try dry beans or broad beans.
- Would you like to eat beans with the pods, that are especially tender? Try some yellow beans (also called wax beans).
- Do you have enough space available? What is your gardening skillset? If you have enough space in the bed, bush beans are the easiest choice for beginners.
- Is it possible for you to grow climbing beans with a supporting pole? Then you can also try the more productive pole beans.
- Would you like to harvest milk-ripe beans? Cultivate broad beans in humid climate; grow runner beans in humid and cool regions.
Hopefully, this summary helped you decide what kind of beans suits your needs the best. Now you can go back to the respective paragraph in this article, to learn more about your chosen variety.
If you are interested in the topic of storing and preserving beans, we have an article just for you here.