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Phaseolus vulgaris - L.

Common Name French Bean, Kidney bean
Family Fabaceae or Leguminosae
USDA hardiness 2-11
Known Hazards Large quantities of the raw mature seed are poisonous[10, 65]. Children eating just a few seeds have shown mild forms of poisoning with nausea and diarrhoea, though complete recovery took place in 12 - 24 hours[269]. The toxins play a role in protecting the plant from insect predation[76].
Habitats Not known in a truly wild situation.
Range S. America? Original habitat is obscure.
Edibility Rating    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Phaseolus vulgaris French Bean, Kidney bean

Phaseolus vulgaris French Bean, Kidney bean


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Phaseolus vulgaris is a ANNUAL growing to 2 m (6ft 7in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 3 and is frost tender. It is in leaf from May to October, in flower from July to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees. The plant is self-fertile.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Seed  Seedpod
Edible Uses: Coffee  Coffee  Condiment

Immature seedpods - raw or cooked[46, 105]. The green pods are commonly used as a vegetable, they have a mild flavour and should only be cooked for a short time. When growing the plant for its seedpods, be sure to pick them whilst they are still small and tender. This will ensure the continued production of more pods by the plant. Flowering is reduced once the seeds begin to form inside the pods. The immature seeds are boiled or steamed and used as a vegetable[183]. The mature seeds are dried and stored for future use. They must be thoroughly cooked before being eaten and are best soaked in water for about 12 hours prior to this. They can be boiled, baked, pureed, ground into a powder or fermented into 'tempeh' etc[183]. The powdered seed makes a protein-enriching additive to flour, it can also be used in soups etc[K]. The seed can also be sprouted and used in salads or cooked[183]. The roasted seeds have been used as a coffee substitute[7]. Young leaves - raw or cooked as a potherb[177, 183]. The very young laves are sometimes eaten as a salad, the older leaves are cooked[269].

References   More on Edible Uses

Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Leaves (Fresh weight)
  • 36 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 86.8%
  • Protein: 3.6g; Fat: 0.4g; Carbohydrate: 6.6g; Fibre: 2.8g; Ash: 2.6g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 2.74mg; Phosphorus: 75mg; Iron: 9.2mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 3230mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.18mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0.06mg; Niacin: 1.3mg; B6: 0mg; C: 110mg;
  • Reference: [ 269]
  • Notes:

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antiarthritic  Antirheumatic  Antitussive  Cancer  Diuretic  Homeopathy  Hypoglycaemic  Hypotensive  
Miscellany  Narcotic  Narcotic  Urinary

The green pods are mildly diuretic and contain a substance that reduces the blood sugar level[218]. The dried mature pod is used according to another report[9]. It is used in the treatment of diabetes[9]. The seed is diuretic, hypoglycaemic and hypotensive[7]. Ground into a flour, it is used externally in the treatment of ulcers[7]. The seed is also used in the treatment of cancer of the blood[218]. When bruised and boiled with garlic they have cured intractable coughs[4]. The root is dangerously narcotic[4]. A homeopathic remedy is made from the entire fresh herb[9]. It is used in the treatment of rheumatism and arthritis, plus disorders of the urinary tract[9].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Biomass  Dye  Fungicide  Miscellany

A brown dye is obtained from red kidney beans[168]. The plant contains phaseolin, which has fungicidal activity[218]. Water from the cooked beans is very effective in reviving woollen fabrics[7]. The plant residue remaining after harvesting the dried beans is a source of biomass[269].

Special Uses

Food Forest  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Requires a warm sunny position in a rich well-drained preferably light soil with plenty of moisture in the growing season[27, 37, 200]. Dislikes heavy, wet or acid soils[16, 37]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 to 6.5[200]. The French bean is commonly cultivated in the temperate and subtropical zones and in montane valleys of the tropics for its edible mature seeds and immature seedpods. It is often grown to provide a major part of the protein requirement[183, 269]. A very variable plant, there are more than 1,000 named varieties ranging from dwarf forms about 30cm tall to climbing forms up to 3 metres tall[183, 186, 200, 269]. Plants are not frost-tolerant, air temperatures below 10°c can cause damage to seedlings[200]. When grown for their edible pods, the immature pods should be harvested regularly in order to promote extra flower production and therefore higher yields[200]. Yields of green pods averages about 3kg per square metre, though double this can be achieved[200]. French beans grow well with strawberries, carrots, cauliflowers, cucumbers, cabbage, beet, leek and celeriac[18, 20]. They are inhibited by alliums and fennel growing nearby[18, 20]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200]. When removing plant remains at the end of the growing season, it is best to only remove the aerial parts of the plant, leaving the roots in the ground to decay and release their nitrogen.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



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Plant Propagation

Pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water and sow in mid spring in a greenhouse. Germination should take place within 10 days. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out after the last expected frosts. The seed can also be sown in situ in late spring though it may not ripen its seed in a cool summer.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Bush bean

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Phaseolus coccineusRunner Bean, Scarlet runnerAnnual/Perennial3.0 1-12 FLMHNM403
Phaseolus lunatusLima Bean, Sieva beanPerennial Climber6.0 10-12  LMHNM413
Phaseolus polystachiosThicket Bean. Wild beanClimber3.0 6-10 FLMHSNM203

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

Readers comment

Gopal Pandey   Tue Jan 22 2008

Eva: Evidently you are confuses about the conversion from mg to g. There are 1000 milligrams in one gram.

   Mon Dec 29 2008

"French beans grow well with strawberries, carrots, cauliflowers, cucumbers, cabbage, beet, leek and celeriac[18, 20]. They are inhibited by alliums and fennel growing nearby[18, 20]." ? Leeks are an Allium!

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