Post last updated: December 31st, 2018

Before I left for Atlanta, I was eating bush beans out of my garden. I like the taste of bush beans better than pole beans. I instructed my brother, Bubba, to pick beans while I was gone. I assumed this would be a simple task since both he thinks he’s smarter than me. I was wrong. I returned to string beans that would have qualified for The Guinness World Record in giant beans.

A day or so later, when both Bubba and his wife were on the property, I casually asked if they remembered to pick beans. “Yes, we got a small handful.”

“Oh, a handful? Well, you could have picked 4 handfuls. I threw a mixing bowl of beans in the compost bin because they were too big. Big beans are tough beans.”

Bubba’s wife, who is a really great cook, confessed to not knowing much about picking beans. Bubba sat there mute.

For the benefit of those who think string beans come from a can at the grocery store, this is how you pick beans.

  1. Bush bean seeds are generally planted 3 inches apart. This means the plants, at maturity, will be a mass of leaves when viewed from the top. You won’t see very many beans waving their little hands at you above this canopy. If you pick only the beans you can see, you will leave behind a LOT of beans.
Canopy of bush beans with white blooms peeking out

2.   Bush beans grow about 2 feet tall before forming the canopy of leaves. Bush beans also have a tendency to vine. These vines start at the bottom of the plant and grow outwards. Some of the vines lie on the dirt. You need to separate the canopy of leaves from every direction – north, south, east and west and look for beans. There is no central bean stalk despite the fairy tales you heard in kindergarten. For learning purposes, pretend there is a stalk. Look up and down this imaginary central stalk. You will see beans.

3.   Pick any bean that looks like a pencil — 4 to 7 inches in length and the width of a pencil although some varieties of bush beans are flatter than a pencil. I have about 4 varieties on hand right now. I pick up the seed packets at dollar stores, usually for less than a dollar.

4.   Try to pinch the bean from the vine to avoid breaking the vines. You can pinch it with your thumb and forefinger or you can use both hands.

Oh yeah. Southern peas do the same thing – make a canopy of leaves and vine.

22 thoughts on “HOW TO PICK BUSH BEANS”

  1. Are bush beans what we call half runners? They have strings that must be pulled off before cooking? They get fat enough to have a white bean inside that can cook out of the green skin. SOOOO good. I prefer them over all other green beans and they cost $$$$$$. Sometimes almost $3/lb. One meal of beans only can cost close to $10. But they are soooooooo good so they are worth it.

    1. Loysetta – Based on an image search via Google, I would say “yes” half runners are bush beans. However, I don’t allow the white bean to mature because I can’t “quick cook” the larger bean. That’s what I refer to as an old, tough bean. In bush beans, we can purchase seeds for stringless bush beans. Less work. Our bush beans run $1.49 to $2/lb.

  2. What a pity they did not know how to pick beans nor how to look for them.
    It does not matter how smart you are if you do not have common sense it does not get you very far in the bean picking world.
    I bet they know it now…………….right?

    1. Meta – I’m not sure they are any better at picking beans. Bubba doesn’t always read my blog and his wife doesn’t at all. Other than fussin’ at them for not picking all of the beans, I didn’t say anything else. It’s like you said, picking beans is a common sense thing. I am just amazed at today’s disconnect with where food originates.

      1. Food originates at Publix (for your out-of-the-South readers, Publix is a food store). Hahaha – just ask Bubba!

          1. It don’t matter if you are the oldest sibling. You are still disrespecting me, it if you are giving me an eye roll. It would only be more disrespectful if you gave me BOTH an eye roll and head bob at the same time.

  3. I am a bush bean girl, myself. My daughter used to eat em right off the vine, before washing. She liked them crunchy and called them dirt beans…”cause they taste like dirt”. I think she meant “of the earth”. Next time, tell yore bro to git a youngin to hep. They know how to pick beans. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………giggle…

  4. I planted these for the first time last year and they were brilliant..couldn’t believe how good they tasted right out of the garden. Makes you wonder how long the ones in the grocery store have been hanging around!

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