* The first thing to say about French beans is that they are not really French. However, they were popularised in Britain by French Huguenot refugees, Protestants who came to this country to avoid religious persecution in the 17th century, bringing their culinary traditions with them.
* French beans are unusual amongst vegetables in that some varieties produce climbing plants, similar to runner beans, and others produce dwarf, bushy plants. The bush varieties start cropping earlier, need less space and are more suitable for container growing. Climbing varieties produce a larger crop and are generally better for drying.
* Another unusual, and useful, characteristic is that French beans can be eaten at different stages of development: pod and all when immature, as fresh but mature beans once the pods start to dry, and as fully dried beans which can also be stored for winter.
* French beans originate in the Americas. Their wild cousins are all climbers and occur in Argentina, and all down the western side of the continent from Mexico to Peru. They were an important food crop for the Incas, and other native Americans, and were first brought to Europe by the Spanish in the mid-16th century.
* Bobby bean, bush bean, filet bean, flageolet, green bean, haricot vert, kidney bean, pole bean, navy bean, snap bean, string bean and wax bean are all alternative names for French beans.
* Most modern varieties of French bean tend to have white or pale green seeds in green pods, but there is much more variation than this, especially among heritage varieties. Pods may be flat, oval or round in cross-section, they can
be coloured from pale to dark green, with or without red or purple streaks, or be entirely yellow, or very dark purple. The beans inside can be white, green, red, brown or black or be speckled, or patterned. The Yin Yang bean for example is half black with one white spot, and half white with a black spot – very striking.
* It’s easy to save your own seed from French beans as they are self-pollinating so different varieties will not cross breed. The only exceptions are F1 hybrids, which do not come true from seed.
* You can even use dried French beans in different colours to make Christmas tree decorations, like this. For further instructons Click here