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French beans (or "green beans") are widely sold in both dwarf (bush) and climbing (pole) varieties. If anything, my experience is that the climbing varieties are harder to find in seed outlets.

Apart from the obvious the difference - dwarf plants take up less space and you don't need to support them - are there are any other differences?

For example, flavour, heavy cropping, choice of varieties, length of cropping, environmental tolerances?

I'm assuming the dwarf varieties have been manufactured more recently (but I have no idea whether that's true). So is it possible that the gain in convenience has been at the expense of something else?

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3 Answers 3

[Translating, I think french beans are what we in the U.S. call green beans; dwarf is what we call bush; and climbing is what we call pole.]

  • You're right that bush beans are a recent development: they make it so that mechanical harvesting is easier.
  • In my opinion, pole beans taste better.
  • Pole beans crop more heavily, or at least over a longer season. Bush beans typically only crop for a couple of weeks.
  • Being the older kind, I would suspect that there are many more varieties of pole beans, but I can't back this hunch up with any evidence.

As always, when we breed for a particular trait (size), we tend to lose other traits (flavor).

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+1 for your translations :) & +1 for answer. –  Mike Perry Jul 27 '11 at 14:51
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didn't realise north americans might not use the same vocab. thanks, i'll edit. –  Tea Drinker Jul 27 '11 at 21:38
    
@Tea Drinker, it like a completely different language over here ;-) –  Mike Perry Jul 27 '11 at 21:55
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Heh, I was in the UK a couple of times several years ago. Remember it being quite an ordeal to order a soda (a carbonated beverage) and a bag of chips (thinly sliced deep-fried potato). Nobody told me I needed an American-to-English dictionary... –  bstpierre Jul 28 '11 at 0:32
    
@Tea Drinker, do you french cut (slice 'em down then middle) your french beans? –  Peter Turner Jul 28 '11 at 17:27

Last year I grew both bush and pole beans and the pole varieties out produced the bush varieties by a very large amount. The bush beans only gave about a 3-4 week harvest and were fairly light while the pole beans went from mid-July though to our first frost in late September early October.

This year I'm only growing pole beans and doubt I'll do bush again due to not being nearly as productive. I’ve got 3 varieties on a 16 foot long trellis and this is more than enough for fresh eating all summer as well as freezing for use all winter.

The varieties I’m growing are Yard Long (came from Seeds of Change and are very easy to save seed from since they don't cross pollenate with pole beans), Purple King and Fortex (both came from Burpee). Last week I picked 5+ pounds between all 3 and based on last year’s numbers this should continue every week and a half or so until our first frost.

The only issue I’ve had with these is the Asian stink bugs LOVE attacking these. If I don’t keep up with removing them the beans and leaves will start to shrivel and fall off the plants.

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Reviewing my crop this week, now that it has peaked:

  • Haven't detected a difference in flavour
  • Both types flourished
  • Climbing varieties have cropped much more heavily (by a factor of 3 or 4 times, possibly more)
  • However I am finding the beans of the dwarf varieties stayed at optimum size and tenderness for very much longer and have resisted overswelling and becoming stringy. Whereas the climbing varieties have rushed to produce outsized unusable beans

We use the beans whole as a tasty vegetable, so this last point is crucial for us. So my opinion of dwarf varieties has been revised upwards this year.

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Yes, climbers require diligent harvesting for maximum yield. But I suspect that even if you miss a lot and just compost them because they've gone stringy, you'll still have more usable yield than with bush beans. The only bush beans we grow are yellow wax beans. –  Ed Staub Aug 31 '11 at 20:26

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