August 29 - this question found its way into my inbox recently:

"What's the difference between green beans and pole beans? I was told they were completely different, and that the pole beans could not be eaten. I couldn't see why not so thought I'd ask an expert. So: Are these considered the same kind of bean, but just under different names?

The answer is, "sorta". Pole beans are what you'd think of as green beans - it just means the plants tend to climb and continue to grow, which means they keep producing beans over a long harvest period. There are also bush beans, which are the same type of bean growing on a bushy plant - these tend to produce beans all at once, and then stop. Most of the "green beans" you buy at the store are from bush plants because they can be mechanically harvested. But both bush and pole "green beans" are the same species Phaseolus vulgaris.

Also, there are beans that are not green, but are still the same species. My personal favorite is a purple pole bean named Trionfo.

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This page was last updated November 18, 2013