We have successfully grown a nice crop of green beans this year, but in contrast to store-bought beans the skin is quite tough.
Is there a trick to cultivating more tender beans? Or is it a matter of which breed we use?
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Beans will be tough if you let them go too long. Pick them while they're small and you'll get more tender pods. If the actual bean (the inside part) is starting to bulge, you've let them go too long.
And yes, some varieties are better suited for letting the beans mature and then drying them for soup or chili. What variety did you plant?
Bstpierre's answer is a good one. I would just add that if you pick the pods several times a week to prevent any from maturing, not only will they be tender, but the plants will continue to crop for six or seven weeks. When harvesting, you can make sure you don't loosen the plants, either by holding the stems as you pull away the pods, or by using a pair of scissors.