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French Beans can't rival rice or wheat as a major food source around the world but they are on the second rung as far as a source of food is concerned. Records exist showing their cultivation as far back as 5,000 BC in South America so the world has had plenty of time to produce a wide diversity of varieties.
The two key types are dwarf / bush types and climbing types but within these groups there are hundreds of varieties.
DWARF / BUSH FRENCH BEAN VARIETIES
A new variety which is not easy to find in garden centres but can be found online. It was awarded a RHS AGM in 2010 and is a late cropper which allows you to extend the French Bean cropping season. Pencil shaped and very straight this variety is tasty and tolerates heavy soils better than most.
Allegria French Bean
They grow to 60cm / 2ft high and produce masses of thin, straight bean pods which are best harvested when 10cm to 12cm (4in to 5in) long.
Allegria grows well even in heavy ground. It produces a crop slightly later in the year when many other varieties are past their peak. Expect the first beans in early August after the white flowers fade. Not the heaviest of crops but the quality of the beans more than makes up for that. One online supplier of Allegria seeds is Plant Genesis.
Awarded an RHS Award of Garden Merit which has been confirmed in several trials, Annabel produces rounded pods 8cm to 10cm (4in) long. They are slightly thicker than the average fine French Bean. The plants are small at around 30cm high and ideal for growing in containers. The flowers are white and the first pods are normally ready for picking in late July. Expect about an average yield of beans.
Annabel French Bean
The Annabel variety of French Bean is widely available both in garden centres, diy stores and online.
This variety has been grown for many decades and is still one of the top-selling French beans. The pods are slightly flat and they are produced freely from the end of July onwards (about 13 weeks from sowing to the first crops). Expect a total crop per plant of just a smidgeon under 3kg. Plant height is around 45cm and individual pods are about 10cm / 4in long. Some of the pods will touch the ground which is not the ideal.
Masterpiece is widely available both in garden centres, diy stores and online. Our recommended supplier is Kings, their page for this variety can be found here. Not our favourite French Bean but performs reasonably well. Kids seem to prefer a finer, thinner French Bean.
The French Bean variety which we recommend as one of the best. Awarded a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit (RHS AGM) in 1996, this variety produces medium green pods which are almost always straight and of the same length.
Flavour is delicious with tender and juicy pods. The cropping period is longer than most and of course this is a stringless variety. This variety of French Bean is widely available in garden centres, diy stores and online. Our recommended supplier for The Prince seeds can be found here.
Delicious French Beans which are deep purple when growing, pods produced at the top of the plant for easy picking.
Not only are the beans a "fun" colour but they taste good as well. The plants are ....... CLICK HERE TO GO TO OUR IN DEPTH REVIEW OF PURPLE TEEPEE
This variety of French Bean is widely available in garden centres, diy stores and online. Our recommended supplier for Purple Teepee seeds can be found here.
If you want a dwarf French Bean which is slightly different but also has top taste and texture then give Sonesta a try. It produces yellow beans which add colour to a salad and other meals. The plants grow to 60cm / 2ft high and the beans are about 15cm / 6in long. Overall yields are higher than average.
The beans are stringless with an excellent flavour and texture. Sonesta has an RHS Award of Garden Merit. The seeds are widely available online and often available at garden centres.
One of our favourites dwarf French Bean varieties because the pods look and taste even better than those sold in the supermarket. Ultra straight, pencil like and round, this is the perfect looking French Bean. Best picked when the beans are 15cm / 6in long to keep them tender. They are dark green and retain that colour well when cooked.
Totally stringless, Sprite is a tasty French bean variety which is well worth a try. It was given an RHS Award of Garden Merit in 1993 which was kept in 2016. The plant is very compact and requires no support at all in most situations.
Seeds of Sprite French beans are sometimes available in garden centres and diy stores. Our recommended online supplier for Sprite can be found here.
An excellent choice for variable UK weather which can easily produce an early crop. CLICK HERE TO GO TO OUR IN DEPTH REVIEW OF THIS VARIETY
CLIMBING / POLE FRENCH BEAN VARIETIES
This is a climbing French bean which will grow to 2.5m easily so it needs support as soon as the seedlings appear above the surface. The pods are a deep purple with green flesh inside and they turn to green when they are cooked.
Each pod is unusually long at ....... CLICK HERE TO GO TO OUR DETAILED REVIEW OF BLAUHILDE
Cobra is a climbing French Bean which has been awarded a RHS AGM in both 2000 and reconfirmed in 2008. Classic, modern pencil shape, this is the way to grow a huge crop of delicious beans in a small area. Completely stringless, Cobra will crop through to early autumn.
The Cobra variety of French Bean is widely available both in garden centres, diy stores and online. One online supplier of this seed which we recommend is Simply Seeds.
Purple Cascade is a climbing French Bean which has very vibrant (some might say "over vibrant"!) purple pods. If they are lightly cooked or steamed the pods retain most of this purple colour. They grow as well as any other variety so if you want a novelty plant this year then give these a try. Planting and general care is described in detail here. The best price we could find for seeds was from Marshall's.
Purple Cascade French Bean
Hunter French Beans have flatter pods compared to average French Bean and they almost stringless, certainly so when young. The pods grow to around 25cm / 10in long although we suggest harvesting them at 20cm / 8in to get the freshest flavour and best texture.
Hunter climbing French Bean
Hunter is a climbing French bean reaching a height of about 180cm / 6ft. When they get 10cm / 4in from the top of the supports, pinch the growing tip out to prevent clogging up the top of the plant.
This variety will produce a huge crop for the space it occupies so it needs to be kept well fed with a balanced liquid fertiliser and don't let it dry out. The RHS has awarded this variety an AGM.