It depends on who you ask. A green bean is a vegetable on the dinner plate, but scientifically it is a fruit, and some smarty pants will call them a legume. So let’s break down how green beans are categorized in every way, as a vegetable, fruit, or other.
Green Beans a Vegetable?
In culinary use, vegetables are served as a main dish or side dish and have a less sweet and more savory flavor. A fruit has a sweet or tart flavor and is usually served as a dessert, snack, or juice.
Texture is also considered with vegetables having a tougher texture and fruits a softer texture. In culinary use green beans are considered a vegetable!
Are Green Beans a Fruit?
Botanically speaking, green beans are fruits. They are the structure that bear the seeds of the plant, making them fruit. To the plants producing fruit is a means to produce seed and reproduce.
The seeds are then spread through the wind or through the digestive tract of an animal. The spreading of seeds should not be confused with pollination. Pollination is required for a fruit with seeds to form in the first place and is usually a result of self-pollination, wind, or insects spreading male pollen onto female flowers.
A legume is a scientific family of plants that all have the same type of fruit, a bean. Legumes provide fiber, minerals, and vitamins like many vegetables but unlike most veggies they also provide a large dose of proteins and carbohydrates.
Green Beans Horticulturally a Fruit or a Vegetable
Horticulture is the agriculture of plants for human use, as food or any other use. Horticulture differs from agriculture in two ways. Horticulture typically has smaller growing operations and a wider variety of plants grown.
In horticulture, the products of herbaceous annual plants are vegetables and the products of woody perennial plants are fruit.
Herbaceous annual plants grow and die back every year and have pliable stems and branches. Woody perennials have more durable stems and branches and come back year after year, like fruit trees.
Therefore, horticulturally speaking green beans are a vegetable!
When we go to the grocery store we find green beans next to other vegetables whether in the produce section or in the canned vegetable aisle. I’ve never seen a fruit basket with green beans in it. I think it’s safe to say say culturally we consider green beans a vegetable.
Are Green Beans Legally a Fruit or Vegetable?
In a Supreme Court Case in 1893, Nix v. Hedden, an importer of tomatoes tried to get out of paying import taxes by claiming that tomatoes were fruits. At the time, imported vegetables had a 10% tax placed on them and fruits came under a free clause.
The defendants then read definitions from the dictionary including the following: pea, eggplant, squash, and pepper. The plaintiff then read the following definitions: potato, turnip, parsnip, cauliflower, cabbage, carrot, and bean.
The Supreme Court decided that tomatoes are a vegetable! The court recognized that botanically tomatoes were a fruit but stated that because common reference to them as vegetables in business at markets as well as its use culinarily in main dishes, as opposed to desserts, tomatoes were legally ruled a vegetable.
It’s safe to assume that this ruling would play out the same way for green beans since they are both referred to as vegetables and used culinarily as vegetables. Therefore, green beans are legally a vegetable!
Facts About Green Beans
- The string that is in some beans runs the length of the pod and can make eating them a chore and a constant spitting out of the fibrous string. Botanist Calvin Keeney made a stringless green bean in 1894 through selective breeding and is now known as “the father of the stringless bean”.
- Raw green beans are poisonous! Just a little bit though. If you’re going to eat them raw the seeds have the most toxins so choose young pods with small seeds. Cooking the beans eliminates the toxins.
- Green Giant set a new Guiness World Record for the biggest green bean casserole. The casserole weighed 1,009 lbs. and was served to 3,000 New Yorkers through City Meal on Wheels.
- Green beans, along with all legumes, are nitrogen fixing plants. This means that they add nitrogen to the soil they’re grown in by taking it out of the air and transferring it to the soil. It’s actually a bacteria called rhizobia that forms in the roots of the legumes in nodules that does the nitrogen fixing. The rhizobia and green beans have a symbiotic relationship. The green beans act as host to the rhizobia giving them a place to stay and the rhizobia produce nitrogen in the soil, an essential nutrient for plant growth.
- The term snap beans comes from the snap when the bean is broken in half.
- China is by far the country with the largest green bean production followed by Indonesia, India, and Turkey.
- Green beans can do well in a wide variety of soils and climates. The top three producing states are New York, Wisconsin, and Florida. The US grows green beans on 201,154 acres of land.
- Green beans originated in Mesoamerica around 7,000 years ago.
- Green beans are an excellent source of vitamin K, and a good source of manganese, vitamin C, dietary fiber, folate and vitamin B2, copper, vitamin B1, chromium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, choline, vitamin A, niacin, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, vitamin B6 and vitamin E.
- The Guiness World Record for the longest green bean ever grown goes to H. Hurley of Fuguay-VArina, North Carolina, who in 1996 grew a green bean that measured. 4 feet and 0.75 inches.
- Green beans are the third most popular garden vegetable grown coming in behind tomatoes and peppers.
- Green beans, along with all legumes, are nitrogen fixing plants. This means that they add nitrogen to the soil they’re grown in by taking it out of the air and transferring it to the soil.
- There are 130 different types of “green” beans that range from purple, yellow, or spotted.
- You should drain and rinse canned green beans to reduce the sodium content.
- Because green beans are such a rich source of vitamin K, people that are taking blood thinners such as coumadin should not suddenly eat large batches of them as vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting.
To learn more about the different types and varieties of green beans check out “Different Types & Varieties of Green Beans“.
Please comment with any thoughts, questions, or concerns on the status of green beans as a fruit or vegetable.