Perfect Snap and Crunch
It's hard for us to pick a favorite bean from our garden's crop. We love the pole beans, picked young and tender, that give just the right amount of snap and crunch to a picnic-perfect bean salad. But then there are the bush beans, with their striking striations of color, that we shell for the seeds that cook up meaty and creamy, great for that very same salad or pureed into a velvety summer soup. And shell beans have this advantage: They can be dried, then cooked all year long.
Cherokee Trail of Tears Beans
A multipurpose pole bean that can be eaten fresh when picked young. Or leave them to dry; then shell: The beans inside turn glossy black and are great in stew and chili.
Dragon Tongue Beans
This bush bean starts out light green, then grows splotchy as it ripens. Can be eaten as snaps when young or shelled for hearty beans when mature.
Italian Rose Beans
The beautiful shell on these tends to be thick and fibrous: They're best for shelling fresh or dried. Very similar to the popular cranberry beans.
Golden Wax Beans
Best when picked fresh and young so they stay tender. Pluck them from the vine before you see the bean seed bumps forming, which means they've toughened.