Bill Best gives this definition of "full beans":
"Full Beans-This is a term used to describe a bean where the seed is fully mature within the hull and the bean is ready to harvest. Heirloom beans are traditionally harvested at the full stage whether they are to be used fresh, canned, pickled or making leather britches."
He goes on to write:
"Heirloom beans, at least those of the Southern Appalachians, are typically harvested at the "full" stage, that is when the seeds within the hulls have reached near full maturity. We of the Southern Appalachians have depended on our beans to be a protein food, one that 'sticks to one's ribs'."
Gardenlad used to post here often and he used to describe Tobacco Worm as the bean against which all others were compared. Sort of the perfect 10 of beans. The first time I grew them, they did not seem to be anything special. The snaps appeared later than Fortex and Emerite. That's a negative. And they developed strings! Big negative. I did not even bother to save seeds (blush).
So I had shellies and I had dry beans and I had the Fortex and Emerite type beans.
Gardenlad once commented that Tobacco Worm was usable all the way to maturity when the pods were turning yellow and the seeds were fully viable. Shelly beans with a wrapper. Hmm. Well, let's try them again. And let's see how long Tennessee Cutshort is usable. And how about trying some greasy beans.
In recent years, full beans have been my favorites and I keep using them until the hulls are drying. My family members consider Fortex to be the ultimate bean but DW more than once spoke approvingly last summer of Anellino Giallo which were plump with black seeds.
The strings are no longer a negative and they provide an excuse to linger and enjoy the bean patch for a few minutes in the evening. However unzipped beans do tend to fall apart when cooked. Most full beans including all of the greasy beans tend to have strings. Anellino Giallo and some of the "fall beans" do not have strings and some fall beans are planned new additions for next summer. - Dick