Italians are great bean eaters. For fresh beans they prefer French filet beans such as Boby Bianco, Brittle Beurre, or La Victoire. Filet beans are round, slender, tender, and delicious. They are picked when no thicker than a pencil and cooked simply. Italians also like flat beans such as Supermarconi and Venezia. Don't let any fresh beans get too large or eating quality will suffer. All Italians have a special affection for fresh borlatti shell beans. Simple preparation is best: shell them, boil them, and dress with olive oil and fresh herbs.
Grow beans in a well-drained soil with a pH above 6.0. Do not plant until after the last frost date for your area and then only after the soil temperature has warmed up to 60°F. Been seeds will rot in cold, damp soil. For bush beans, plant seeds 1" deep. If using raised beds, place a seed every 2" and space your rows 12-14" apart. Keep well watered until beans germinate, about 5-8 days. A 2 x 4 foot section per variety grown should provide plenty of beans for the 2-3 week harvest of most bush beans. Plant Rampicante pole beans along a fence or tellis so that final spacing is about 8 inches apart. If you have lots of beans, you can plant them closer to insure no gaps, and then thin to 8 inches.
In a row, plant Nano bush beans 1 inch apart, and then thin them to 3 inches. In a block, you will want them growing at least 6 inches apart in every direction. You can plant more thickly, and then thin accordingly.
Make succession plantings every 2-3 weeks until 60 or so days before your expected first frost. Pick often to encourage new pod set. Control weeds by hoeing between rows when weeds first emerge and perhaps once more two weeks later. Once the beans get high enough to shade in between the rows, you should have no further weed problems. Pole beans provide a longer harvest period and use less space, but they take longer to mature. You can either grow your pole beans on a string (run a wire, top and bottom, between two posts 6-8 feet apart, tie a string every six inches or so to the top & bottom wire, and plant 2-3 beans around each string. Train plants to grow up the string. You can also use a string or homemade trellis or make a tripod out of three or four 6-7 foot saplings. You should be able to harvest pole beans the entire season. It is critical that you keep harvesting pole beans; if you let them mature, they will stop producing new pods. Grow shell beans as above.
Diseases and Pests
The Mexican bean beetle is the primary pest. For the home gardener, they can usually be controlled by prevention. Check the underside of the leaves weekly. If you see an orange/yellow egg mass, destroy it. Those are beetle larvae. If you miss them and they become a problem, you can hand pick and destroy them. Rotenone and/or pyrethrum are very effective in controlling Mexican bean beetles.
Harvest, Use and Storage
Pick beans small. They taste better and this encourages more pod set. Hold the base of the bean where it attaches to the plant and give the bean a tug with the other hand. They should separate easily without doing any damage to the plant. For shell beans, wait until they are good and plump before harvesting. You could also let them continue to grow and use them as dry beans. Rinse, store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.