Horticulture Magazine

How To Harvest French Beans

hand shown holding freshly harvested French beans

French beans, Phaseolus vulgaris, are a varied type of bean commonly grown in UK gardens.

While typically, UK gardeners will harvest the pods as a green vegetable, these plants also yield seeds that are eaten at the immature stage as beans.

They can also be dried for later use as a pulse.

DifficultyEasy
Equipment RequiredGardening scissors (optional)
When To HarvestJuly – September (and sometimes later)

Here are some basic things to know about the French bean harvest:

  • Harvest French Beans from July to September, and perhaps longer into autumn.
  • The time for which you will harvest depends on the type you are growing.
  • You can find varieties of green beans or shelling beans.
  • Begin to harvest green beans when these are around 10cm long.
  • Some shelling beans are harvested when green and immature – while some are harvested at the end of the season, for drying.

French beans are a crop that can potentially be harvested over a long period.

Imagery and video featured in this article was commissioned by Horticulture.co.uk in collaboration with Organic Gardener Emily Cupit.

See below for more detailed insight depending on the type of green beans you’re looking to harvest –

When To Harvest French Beans

French Beans hanging from a bamboo cane with visible foliage all around

Most French beans are harvested sometime between July and September.

However, when precisely you can harvest, and how long you will be able to harvest from a plant, will depend on which type and variety you are growing.

The first thing to consider is whether you are growing dwarf or bush beans, or a climbing or pole bean type.

Bush beans typically provide a harvest for a few weeks, while climbing beans take longer to come to harvest, but will typically yield over a much longer period when the green beans are picked regularly.

green beans shown hanging with twine and bamboo support structure also visible

It is also important to think about the specific cultivar or cultivars you are growing.

In the UK, most gardeners grow French beans that yield edible pods.

But some cultivars are not grown primarily for their pods, but rather for seeds that form within them.

Seed beans are harvested while young in some varieties. In others, they are left to mature fully, and then dried as a pulse.

green beans shown growing in raised beds

So when precisely you harvest will depend on the specific French beans you are growing, and which part of the plant you plan to eat.

Harvesting Green Beans As A Vegetable

As mentioned above, the most common harvest from French beans are the pods, used as a vegetable.

Typically green, these also come in shades of purple, yellow etc.

There are many interesting cultivars to consider.

beans at various stages of growth in raised beds

If you are growing a French bean variety for green beans, then you will typically begin to pick the pods when these are around 10cm long.

The pods, when ready for harvest, should snap easily, and they should not have visible beans forming within them.

You should be able to easily use a finger and thumb to break through the top of the bean pod and remove it from the plant, but you can also snip them off with gardening scissors if you prefer.

using forefinger and thumb to harvest french beans from the plant

It is important to keep an eye on your plants and to harvest regularly, since repeated harvesting should encourage new beans to form – for a few weeks for dwarf types and for much longer with climbing varieties.

Harvesting Immature Shelling Beans

With some cultivars, French beans are grown for seeds that are shelled from their pods and eaten while immature.

With these types, you will harvest when the pods plump out and you can see the forms of the beans within.

You can, again, simply break or cut off the pods, then shell the beans within to use in your recipes.

Harvesting Mature Beans & Drying As A Pulse

hand using forefinger and thumb in harvesting green beans, with nasturtium companion plants in the background

Other cultivars are chosen for use as a pulse crop.

When growing these types, you will leave the beans in the pods until they mature towards the end of the season.

With many types of shelling bean, you will wait until the pods begin to turn brown and dry, the shell the seeds from the dry pods.

These beans can then be dried out some more, then stored for later use.

So when thinking about harvesting French beans, it is important to consider what yield you are after, and which type you are growing.

When you are clear on the specific variety, you can find out what these should look like at the harvesting stage, and make sure that you harvest in the right way, and at the optimal time.

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