Top 10 Heirloom Bush Beans to Grow in 2023

Top 10 Heirloom Bush Beans to Grow This Year

Beans are a classic vegetable garden staple. They are so easy to grow and they produce so much for minimal effort! Bush beans are small, compact, easy to take care of, and will give you more beans than you know what to do with! And with heirloom varieties, you can save some dried beans for planting each year and you’ll never have to worry about buying more seeds again until you are looking to try something new!

I’ve put together a list of my top 10 favorite heirloom bush beans to grow in your garden this year. There are plenty of delicious varieties to choose from, so you’re sure to find one (or more!) that you’ll love, whether you prefer beans for eating fresh, freezing, drying or canning.

Bush Beans vs. Pole Beans vs. Runner Beans

Beans come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, but they can generally be divided into two main categories: bush beans and pole beans.

Bush beans are compact plants that reach an average height of about 18 inches. They produce a large number of beans all at once and do not require any type of support. You can simply sow the seeds directly into the ground, thin them out as they grow, and then harvest the beans when they’re ready. Bush beans come in so many different varieties, and they are the easiest type of bean to grow. I couldn’t believe how many beans each plant produced when I first started growing them!

Pole beans, on the other hand, need some type of support system such as a trellis or fence. They are more vining in nature and can grow up to 15 feet tall. Pole beans produce fewer beans at a time than bush beans, but they yield well over a continuous period of time. They also take longer to mature than bush beans, usually about 2 weeks longer, but once they start producing, pole beans will continue to produce for several weeks to a month. They are slightly hardier than bush beans and a little more disease-resistant, possibly because they get a lot more airflow due to their climbing nature.

Runner beans are also climbing beans, but they are an entirely different species than pole beans.  They are commonly enjoyed as ornamentals for their beautiful, vibrant flowers, but their flattened pods are also edible. In fact, one of the most famous heirloom bean varieties in America is the Scarlet Runner with its spectacular fiery red blooms, and its pods are delicious to eat when picked young, or the beans can be dried when the pods reach maturity.

Tips for Growing Heirloom Pole Beans

  • Full sun: At least 8 hours a day.
  • They are nitrogen fixers: Both bush beans and pole beans are nitrogen fixers, meaning they add nitrogen to the surrounding soil. This makes them excellent companions for a lot of plants including carrots, cucumbers, peas, arugula and spinach. Because they can pull nitrogen from the air, they typically don’t need any extra fertilizer. If you have poor soil, adding some manure or compost before you start planting is always a good idea, though.
  • Warm soil: Beans are very sensitive to cold temperatures, so it’s best to direct sow after the last frost date and when the soil has warmed up to at least 68° F (20° C).
  • Harvesting dry beans for storing, canning or as seeds: Wait until the bean pods have completely dried and you can hear the beans rattling inside. Shell the beans and, if you prefer, set them somewhere spread out and out of direct sunlight to ensure they are 100% dry before you store them.

1. Strike

This is my favorite bush bean variety right now. I couldn’t believe how much each plant produced the first time I grew them! They mature very quickly as well, and I found that I got about two full harvests from them plus a little more at the end. Strike beans are delicious eaten fresh and make great dilly beans as well from my personal experience! You’ll definitely want to plant some of these in your garden this year.

Days to Maturity: 45-50

Pod Size: 5-6”

Best For: Eating fresh, freezing, canning

Available at Hoss Tools.

2. Dragon Tongue

You can’t grow heirloom bush beans without trying the Dragon Tongue variety! These beans start off as yellow wax beans and develop striking purple streaks. Even just looks-wise, the bright purple against the green leaves is incredibly pleasing to the eye, and the beans grow huge too! This plant is also a heavy producer, and I find the beans are best for eating fresh (although they lose their purple color when cooked) or drying. Kids might find the name to be very interesting, and this may work in your favor to get them to eat their “dragon tongue” veggies!

Days to Maturity: 65

Pod Size: 8-10”

Best For: Eating fresh, drying

Available at West Coast Seeds.  

3. Blue Lake Bush

This is a classic heirloom bush bean variety that is extremely popular among gardeners. It was developed from the pole bean variety of the same name back in the 1900s. Blue Lake beans are resistant to the bean mosaic virus, which is a huge plus, and they are crisp and delicious when eaten fresh. Because the beans are long and straight, they are particularly great for canning, and they also freeze well. Another great all-purpose green bean!

Days to Maturity: 50-70

Pod Size: 5-6”

Best For: Eating fresh, canning, freezing

Available at True Leaf Market

4. Top Notch Golden Wax

Looking for a great wax bean? Look no further than the Top Notch Golden Wax variety. These bright yellow beans mature quickly and are super easy to grow. They are rust resistant, which is a plus for me. This improved heirloom variety produces uniform straight beans that are perfect for eating fresh, canning or freezing. The flavor is rich and buttery, and the beautiful yellow color makes a great addition to bean salads!

Days to Maturity: 50-60

Pod Size: 5-6”

Best For: Eating fresh, canning, freezing

Available at True Leaf Market.

5. Top Crop

This is a great heavy-producing variety that gives bushels of straight, stringless green beans. It is another good variety for canning, as it holds its deep green color and crisp texture after processing. This variety is resistant to the bean mosaic virus, and that, combined with the large yields and consistent color, shape and flavor, make it a top variety for canning.

Days to Maturity: 50

Pod Size: 6-7”

Best For: Canning

Available at Hoss Tools.

6. Tongues of Fire

This beautiful variety is even more striking than Dragon Tongue, if you can believe it! The green pods are streaked with bright crimson, and the beans are also beautifully dappled with the same crimson color. These heirloom bush beans are meant for shelling, and this variety is commonly used in Tuscany, Italy for a lot of everyday cooking.  If you are looking for a beautiful variety of shelling beans, I would definitely recommend Tongues of Fire (or Borlotto Lingua di Fuoco, as it is also known).

Days to Maturity: 70

Pod Size: 6-7”

Best For: Drying

Available at Hoss Tools.

7. Royal Burgundy

Beans fit for a queen! These beautiful heirloom bush beans are a deep, rich purple color on the outside and green on the inside, and visually, it is a wonderful complementary contrast against the light green leaves of the plant. Besides the looks, these beans have an excellent flavor and are packed with nutrients. They do well in both warm and cool soils, and the variety is resistant to bean beetles

Days to Maturity: 55

Pod Size: 5-6”

Best For: Eating fresh, freezing, drying

Available at Hoss Tools.

8. Tendergreen

This is one of the most popular heirloom bush bean varieties out there. It dates back to the 1920s, and has been a reliable variety ever since. The plants are hardy, disease resistant, heat tolerant, and high yielding. The pods are rich and meaty with a juicy, sweet flavor. This truly is the king of green beans! If you can get your hands on some seeds, you’ll definitely want to plant these in your garden and save the seeds for years to come!

Days to Maturity: 52

Pod Size: 6”

Best For: Eating fresh, canning, freezing

Available at True Leaf Market.

9. Cherokee Wax

These yellow wax beans are productive and dependable. They are a very popular heirloom bush bean variety due to their hardiness, disease resistance and high yields. The pods are a light yellow color and the beans inside are black. This is a great variety for eating fresh, freezing, canning or drying!

Days to Maturity: 50-58

Pod Size: 5-6”

Best For: Eating fresh, freezing, drying, canning

Available at True Leaf Market.

10. Landreth Stringless

This is a very old heirloom variety dating back to the late 1800s, and it really stands the test of time! This heirloom bush bean variety is reliable, fast-growing, high-yielding and has a rich, meaty flavor. The hearty beans are excellent for preserving, both canning and freezing.

Days to Maturity: 55

Pod Size: 5”

Best For: Canning, freezing

Available at Hoss Tools.

Conclusion

If you ask me, bush beans are a must for every gardener. With so many different heirloom varieties available, there’s sure to be a few that pique your interest. If you really love beans, you might want to plant both bush beans and pole beans for more variety and to create a beautiful arrangement of bushy and trellised plants.

What are your favorite heirloom bush beans? Let me know in the comments!

And if you’re looking to get started with homesteading and organic gardening, make sure to check out our Complete Guide to Organic Gardening.

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