French bean

Fact file: French beans

Discover interesting facts plus growing advice on French beans, in this short feature.

With big yields from climbers and dwarf bushes, and happy in the ground or in containers, French beans are perfect for small gardens.

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Find out all you need to know about growing French beans in our Grow Guide.

They’re supremely easy to incorporate into meals, too – try them in salads and stir-fries, or enjoy as part of a hale and hearty stew. To support climbing French beans, try creating a clematis wigwam.

More bean-growing advice:

Discover interesting facts, growing advice and more, in this French beans fact file.

Freeze whole beans when just picked, while they are young and tender.

Did you know…

A bowlful of French beans
A bowlful of French beans

Originating from Central and South America, Phaseolus vulgaris was brought to Europe in the 16th century by Christopher Columbus and subsequently became very popular in France. Green pods are most common, but there are yellow, purple and cream varieties too.


Nutrition

Compact, pot-grown French bean
Compact, pot-grown French bean

Rich in many nutrients including vitamins A and B, iron and folic acid.


Harvest

Picking purple French beans
Picking purple French beans

Pick when at least 8cm long, once the pods snap easily but before the seeds inside start to swell, except with haricot or flageolet beans. Harvest regularly to encourage heavier crops, and don’t leave over-mature pods on plants.


Store

Freeze whole beans when just picked, while they are young and tender.


How to grow

Potting on young French bean plants
Potting on young French bean plants

Sow in mid-spring under cover at 10°C or above, placing two seeds at a depth of 3cm in each deep cell or pot, then thin to one. Harden off before planting out, and use tall canes to support climbing varieties. Plant in sun, in light, well-drained soil, with compost or manure added the previous autumn, and fertiliser added a fortnight before planting. Warmth and shelter are essential, more so than with runner beans. Water generously, at least twice a week.


Our choices

Sowing French beans in small pots
Sowing French beans in small pots
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‘Cobra’, ‘Golden Gate’, ‘Cosse Violette’ (purple), ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ (for drying); dwarf: ‘Delinel’ and ‘Stanley’.