Master Gardeners of Napa County: The Roman Bean Trials | House and garden


DONNA WOODWARD UC Napa County Master Gardener

If you haven’t eaten Romano green beans fresh from the garden, you can’t imagine how delicious they are. The difference between locally grown beans and frozen or commercially grown beans from the supermarket is astounding. It’s like the difference between fresh summer tomatoes and the ones you buy in winter.

The Napa County Master Gardeners Field Trials Group grew three varieties of Romano beans in the spring of 2019. The beans were so popular that we grew three more in 2020. As a result, we had a total of six. varieties to compare for ease of growth. , yield and flavor.

Romano beans, also known as Italian green beans, are large, flat beans, much wider than the famous Blue Lakes or Kentucky Wonders. While we often refer to fresh beans as green beans, some varieties are not green. We also tested yellow and purple varieties.

Romano beans also come in perch and bush-like form. We have tried one shrub and two perch cultivars each year. All seeds were purchased from Territorial Seed Company.

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In 2019, we grew Helda, a green bean; Golden Gate, a yellow bean; and Purpiat, a purple bean. Last year we tested Musica, a green bean; Violet Podded Stringless, a purple bean; and Capitano, a type of yellow bush.

We tracked the days before germination, the days before harvest, vigor and pest problems. We noted whether the gardener planted the beans in raised beds or in the ground, and the method of watering.

As you might expect, we’ve seen a lot of variation. Some of the varying results reflected unforeseen circumstances, such as a heat wave, vacation, or irrigation failure. Members of the Field Trials group also reside in different parts of Napa Valley, with different conditions. The committee had nine participants in 2019 and a dozen last year. Given these issues, we can only reliably report general observations, not conclusions.

Both years, green beans were the favorites for flavor. The other two pole varieties, Golden Gate and Violeta, achieved high scores but took second place in their respective years. The two bush varieties were less impressive.

Purple beans, both perch-type and bush-type, achieved high appeal, but only when raw. When cooked, they take on a bluish green color. Violet is lovely on the vine but doesn’t look like a classic Roman bean. Other than the color, it is slightly rounder and firmer than the green and yellow varieties, which are flatter and a bit longer. Many testers found Violeta a bit tougher and less flavorful than other pole varieties.

Green beans also excelled in productivity. Because they grow vertically they gave more per allotted space, but even per plant the green beans gave more.

It is a bit more difficult to establish climbers because you have to provide them with a six to eight foot trellis, string or other support for them to climb. But once the rack is in place, green beans are much easier to care for and pick. Bush beans may be a better choice for someone with a deep raised bed. Even bush beans may need some support, such as a small cage. Some bushes get big and if the beans are heavy, like Romanos, the plants can fall if they are not supported.

Beans are easy to grow and can be planted until June in our area. We planted seeds directly in the garden in early May both years. On average, the seeds germinated within a week and with a success rate of 75-80%. The beans were ready for harvest 60 to 70 days after planting.

Only a few gardeners have encountered pest problems with young plants. A gardener who reported insect damage used a flashlight to check the plants after dark. Earwigs were the culprits, and she trapped them with rolled up newspaper. Another gardener noticed damage to the leaves of a larger animal, but solved the problem by covering the plants with tulle until they grew larger. Once the plants reached maturity, they had few pest problems.

One issue that was not easy to tabulate was the optimal crop size. Young beans are the most tender. If allowed to develop bulging pods, they will be tough. All of the varieties tested have been classified by Territorial as cordless, but if left on the vine for too long they will develop tough strands. To enjoy the best quality, choose young and pick frequently.

Many of our testers had never grown Romano beans before, but after the first try, all said they would grow them again. I know I will never have a summer garden again without them.

Food Culture Forum: the second Sunday of the month until November. Sunday May 9 from 3 pm to 4 pm: “Beans and summer pruning of fruit trees”. Register to get the Zoom link:

Workshop: On Saturday May 1, UC Master Gardeners of Napa County will be hosting a virtual workshop on “Flowers and Foliage for the Home” from 10 am to noon. Learn how to grow your own annuals and perennials to cut, and get tips on making arrangements. Register to get the Zoom link:

Library Conference: On Thursday, May 6, from 7 pm to 8 pm, UC Napa County Master Gardeners will host a virtual conference on “The Right Tree, The Right Place: Making Smart Tree Choices for Your Landscape.” Register to get the Zoom link:

Walk in the trees: On Tuesday, May 11, from 10 a.m. to noon, UC Napa County’s Master Gardeners will host a guided tree-walk in Fuller Park in Napa. Group size is limited to seven. Save:

A project called Oxbow Yard could happen in the former South Garden of Copia. It could include beer garden, lounge area, gathering space, restaurant, coffee vendor and other amenities. The space housed a culinary garden, which will remain.

Do you have questions about the garden? Contact the helpdesk. The team works remotely, so please submit your questions through their diagnostic form, sending photos to [email protected], or leaving a detailed message at 707-253-4143. A Master Gardener will answer you by phone or e-mail.

For more information visit or find Master Gardeners on Facebook or Instagram, UC Master Gardeners of Napa County.


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