True String Beans

soilent_greenFebruary 3, 2012

I am looking for the names of old green bean varieties that have strings on them or solid sources for this information. Hard to find decent info because of the confusion with so many sources interchanging the terms "string" and "snap" for what are in fact the stringless varieties.

It is my understanding that the first stringless snap bean came out around 1894. If that is correct then I should be able to assume all green bean varieties prior had strings. Logic would dictate that many varieties still had strings after this date until all bean breeders caught up with the innovation. My grandmother still grew true string beans in the 1940's and 1950's, but this could possibly be explained by the simple fact that she may have saved and replanted her own seeds.

Trivia Question: What was the name of the last new variety of true string bean and what was the last year it was commercially available? (I am seeking the answer myself.)


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I forgot to mention that I have the same questions regarding stringed wax bean varieties...

Also, I have no information regarding when the first stringless wax bean variety came out, the name of the variety, and who released it.


    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 2:33PM
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aftermidnight Zone7b B.C. Canada

How about this one...Stringless Refugee Wax - Calvin Noyes Keeney. Scroll down the page for the info.


Here is a link that might be useful: Stringless Refugee Wax

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 4:02PM
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As noted in the article Calvin Keeney is credited with introducing the first stringless bush bean in 1894. There use to be a lot of stringed bush beans, Bonnemain, Early Etampes, Best of All, Early Mohawk, Red Valentine, Refugee among them. Still alot of the old polebeans available with strings.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 4:12PM
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I would suggest getting a copy of Beans of New York.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 9:27AM
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That "Beans of New York" book looks very interesting. They are pretty proud of it regarding the price, though.

I noted the books are original uncirculated copies. Valued as a collector's item or just a typically overpriced university book?

I would love to have that entire series...

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 12:33AM
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Don't worry about the price, just buy a copy. You will find more than enough in it to justify the purchase.

You could try to find it on Ebay but if it does show up, it usually sells for $75 plus shipping.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 2:21AM
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Many family heirlooms, especially Romano types were stringless prior to 1894. The ones released then were just breeding projects or family heirlooms the seedmen found.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 6:21PM
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Interesting. So Keeney's was the first commercially available stringless bush snap bean. And it might not have been a breeding project, just a grow out of seed he acquired?

Do you think that maybe Romano types have always been stringless? I have never grown or eaten a Romano bean so I don't know if any currently available heirloom or modern varieties have strings or not. Everyone I know that has grown Romano or flat beans didn't care for them, so that is the simple reason for me never growing them. I am growing a few this next season to give them a try, though. One should really keep an open mind on these things...

DarJones - Yeah, the more I think about it, I will probably cough up the money to buy the book. I am just too curious to pass it by. Would be a nice addition to my little library. Thanks for the reference.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 7:55PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

You are the first person I've noticed who is seeking the stringed trait. It's usually the other way around. So, web searches aren't likely to be too successful. But there are still plenty of beans which have strings and you will come across them if you read enough descriptions of bean varieties.


    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 10:08AM
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Annette - Thanks for the info.

Jim - Reason for my "string search": One of the biggest problems I have been having regarding creating a comprehensive list of bean varieties is finding out that I have a bean variety in the stringless "snap" category that is in fact a stringed variety. I think folks would really be disappointed or get upset if, upon using the list as a guide, they acquire and grow a bean variety they thought was a snap bean but it turns out to have strings (it would upset me, especially if it was planted for my main crop). This is why I would appreciate greatly if sources better described their bean varieties. I have come across many retail online and hard-copy seed catalogs that mix in heirloom stringed varieties with stringless varieties and the fact they have strings is not mentioned in the descriptions. They just lump everything together in their "green beans" category.

I really dislike the confusing term "snap" relating to beans. I know not all beans are "snap" beans, yet it seems like half the people now use that term for any bush, pole, or runner bean in which the pod is consumed (with some exceptions). The other half (generally older gardeners) still use the term "string bean" for any bush, pole, or runner bean in which the pod is consumed. From my research it is my understanding that the term "snap" was coined specifically as a promotional tool for selling what was then the new rounded stringless bush bean varieties. The term then became standardized for any rounded stringless bush or pole varieties. If that is correct then there is technically no such thing as a stringed snap bean. True?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 2:00PM
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Semantics actually. word usage changes with each generation. My grandfathers generation did use the term string bean for edible pod beans altho dry beans at the time were also string. Basically it came from the fact that the the pods had to be strung ( strings removed) before cooking them. With the advent of stringless beans, beans were broken (snapped) into pieces without have to remove the strings first. The term green bean is apparently a regional probably urban usage that came in vogue in the latter part of the 20th century. Snap beans can be either green or yellow. Any bean that can be broken crisply into pieces is considered a snap bean. And that includes Vigna types that are snapped. String bean sort of outgrew its usefulness, despite the fact that many of the early 20th century folks kept using the term even for the stringless varieties.It is about gone from common usage. Even the stringed varieties were snapped, but they had to be strung first. I still grow some stringed varieties (all pole types) because I love the flavor. My wife, however, detests the strings so I have the string beans all to myself.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 4:36PM
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"because I love the flavor"

That is why I grow several of the old string type beans.


    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 7:46PM
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I am pretty sure I have read 'The Beans of New York' on line, at least parts of it. Try the Hathi Trust Digital Library.

Here is a link that might be useful: Beans of New York

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 1:26AM
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I just bought the book because of you!

When I went to Kentucky this fall for the heirloom seed swap at Bill Best's place, we out to the bean fields. He did discuss how the older beans with strings taste better than the newer stringless varieties.
I do however love the flavor of flat/Romano types, and as was mentioned they are stringless at least before the seeds really plump up.
There must be a tiny genetic difference that affects the round pods differently than the flat.

In my website descriptions, I do make note of strings. I think it is only fair to let people know.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 10:09PM
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