We all know regular bush beans, but what are Italian flat green beans? Rarely do you see them served in restaurants and it’s very difficult to find them at your local grocery store. Most people haven’t even heard of them before.
What are Italian Flat Green Beans?
Italian flat green beans are commonly referred to as Roma beans, Romano beans, or Roman beans. Recognize the pattern in the name? There are multiple varieties within the Romano bean family so keep reading because it gets very interesting.
In this post, I’ll explain what they are, where to find them, and even how to grow and store them.
My Experience with Italian Flat Green Beans
I first came across these unique and beautiful green beans through my Italian father-in-law who grew them in his backyard garden. I had never seen anything like them and fell in love with them at first sight and at first bite!
In fact, I never even knew green beans were used in Italian cuisine. You can imagine my surprise when I first saw these crazy looking green beans!
My Sicilian mother in-law showed me how to prepare and cook them. You can find the recipe here if you want to check it out.
What is the Difference Between Green Beans and Italian Green Beans
There are many differences between the standard common green bean and Italian green beans. Italian green beans differ from green beans in shape, size, and taste. The differences are stark, and many people make the mistake of substituting green beans in recipes that call for Italian green beans.
They are not the same. They are not even similar in taste.
Green beans can even be eaten raw and taste good! Italian green beans can be tough and taste much better fully cooked.
Unlike Green Beans, Italian Flat Green Beans are Literally Flat and Long
Italian green beans grow to a longer length than other green beans. They are on average about 5-7 inches in length. Some varieties grow to nearly 10 inches long.
Notice in the above image that they are also flat. This is an image of my own Roma beans that had dried and that I harvested. I still don’t know the exact variety so if you know, please let me know in the comments.
Italian Green Beans are Wide, not Round
These Italian green beans are not narrow or round. They are about 1/2in wide. Some varieties are more flat than others, but the shape is very noticeable.
The only exception to this I’ve found is the Busta Termosaldata which is very long and very slim.
The photo above is a picture of my seeds which I’m still not 100% sure which variety they are! The seeds are a very dark beautiful smooth brown.
Different Types of Italian Flat Green Beans
For many years I grew my own Romano beans. Over time and due to circumstances I could no longer grow them and the seeds I had were very old and I was convinced they were too old to germinate.
Last year I decided to see if I could find these favored beans online. My Italian in-laws got their seeds from family in Italy so I didn’t know where else to source them.
Sure enough I saw for the first time a place that sold them. I ran across a website called GrowItalian.com, a US-based small company that specializes in Italian seeds, such as the Franchi brand. But I also discovered there were multiple flat green beans.
So which ones are the Romano beans? Ends up Italian Romano flat beans come in multiple varieties even being called Climbing French Bean.
Most are pole beans which mean they grow like a vine and require a trellis. In addition, most Italian green beans are from the Northern regions of Italy, however, all are native to Italy.
What are Italian Green Beans Called
Here are some of the names of Italian green beans I’ve run across. The Franchi brand sells some of these as well.
- Pole Bean Smeraldo – these are stringless
- Bean Super Marconi
- Bean Bobis a Grano Nero (has a black-seeded bean)
- Pole Bean Spagna A Grano Bicolore
- Bean Anellini Verde
These are just a few, but I recommend you check out GrowItalian.com for more details.
Health Benefits of Italian Flat Beans
Romano beans are a good source of fiber and vitamins such as Vitamin C, K, and Potassium.
They are filling due to the fiber and are low in calories. This makes them a perfectly healthy side dish, great for vegans too.
How are Italian Flat Green Beans Served?
Typically, Italian flat green beans or Romano beans are used as a side dish to pastas or chicken dishes such as Chicken cutlets or Italian Breaded chicken breasts.
I won’t provide the full recipe, since I share that in my Italian Green Beans Recipe post. But they are typically served warm, not cold, sautéed in olive oil and garlic until very tender.
What are Italian Cut Green Beans
Italian cut green beans are the same thing as regular Italian green beans. The term simply means they are cut to about 1 and ½ inches, sometimes at an angle. The tops are also trimmed.
They will already be cut and ready for you to use and if not in the frozen aisle they may be available in cans. I would not recommend using these as they are not fresh like the frozen ones.
What are Frozen Italian Green Beans
Frozen Italian green beans are exactly what it sounds like. You will find them in some grocery stores in the frozen section, and they will be cut as described above.
These frozen beans still taste amazing and you will enjoy them!
How to Store Italian Flat Green Beans
As with any vegetable, store your freshly picked Italian flat green beans in a dry, dark and cool place. If you want long term storage, clean them, cut and trim them and then store in a freezer bag with as much air removed as possible. They will last up to 6 months in the freezer.
If you are harvesting the seeds, don’t cook the beans. Instead leave the pods on the vine until they turn brown and harden towards the end of the season. I leave mine on as long as I can.
You can either leave the seeds in the pods and store in a dark cool place, or you can remove the seeds and store those. Either way, you need to make sure the seeds have time to dry out before you store them in an air tight container.
They should last a few years if not more if stored properly, however the germination rate will decrease over time. I actually managed to germinate and start growing some seeds that were almost 10 years old but a squirrel managed to dig them up.
To say I was upset is the understatement of the year! I’ll need to try again this spring.
How to Grow Italian Flat Green Beans
Growing these beans is very easy. When you order them online, the package should give you instructions to follow.
Keep in mind, not all Italian green beans take the same time to mature. Some varieties are 65 days while others are more like 80. However here are some basic rules for how to grow them at home.
- Plant the beans only when the soil has warmed up. No need to start indoors as they will grow fast once they germinate.
- Make sure to plant where they will get at least 6 to 8 hours of full sun per day. The soil should have a PH between 6 and 8 and should be well drained. If it is like my soil which is clay, make sure to add in some compost to enable the drainage of any excess water.
- Most Italian green beans are climbers, also known as pole beans, so you’ll need a good trellis to allow them to climb. Just make sure to give them a guiding hand to help them grow upward. 🙂
- You can also plant about 3-5 around the trellis. I tend to overdo the planting personally as I get overeager, but you can always prune.
- Pick the Italian beans when they are tender – about 5 inches. You can let them mature larger in size too, they’ll just need a few more minutes of cooking to get them tender.
Here’s my detailed how to steps below:
How to Grow Italian Flat Green Beans
- Start planting them in mid-spring when the soil has warmed up.
- Italian flat beans require a full sun for 6 to 8 hours a day
- Make sure the soil PH is between 6.0 and 8.
- The soil should also be well-draining, meaning the water will not puddle and sit after it rains. Use compost to loosen up the soil if needed.
- Italian flat beans typically are pole beans, meaning they are climbers. Use a trellis as shown to support them. Some beans can climb up to 7 or 8 feet high!
- Sow 3 or 5 beans at the bottom of the trellis, 3 inches apart and 1 inch deep.
- Water the soil after planting the seeds.
- Soil should remain moist until they are growing. But don’t overwater to where the soil is super wet. Don’t let them dry out.
- You can grow a few beans per trellis.
- Pick the Italian green beans when they are young and tender. Mostly around 5 inches.