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This Week in the Garden

Week 16 – Dry Bean Harvest & Storage

For episode/article 16 for This Week in the Garden, we’re finishing our experiment with dry bean harvest and storage. This is the last vegetable to be harvested in our garden, aside from the watermelons, and is marking the end of our summer garden. In this article, we’ll cover how to harvest dry beans, how to shell and store the beans, and my first year experience with them.

One common motif throughout the This Week in the Garden series has been experimentation – trial and error. From the beginning I said, “my goal for this first year garden is to be so big that it can’t fail.” At the time, I hoped I’d be able to harvest half of the things I planted and in the process make a few videos about the learning experience. As we’re getting toward the end of the series, we’ve seen all of the vegetables now go to harvest. 

The black bean harvest was something that I looked forward to throughout the summer. While black/dry beans aren’t necessarily my favorite, they are a fun, different vegetable to grow in the garden. They’re essentially the same as a green bean, you just let the pods mature and dry. You can tell the pods are ready to be harvested once they turn yellow and have a papery texture. They’ll go from a green-yellow color to a yellow that feels leathery. At this point you can pick the beans and leave them in the pods inside to dry if you’re experiencing a lot of wet weather or molding. We didn’t have that this year, and the month of 90 degree weather and no rain dried out my beans perfectly.

Another way to tell if the beans are dry is to open the pods and try to squash the beans between your fingers. A dry bean won’t have any moisture come out and might split in half. Some people will put the beans in between their teeth and try to bite them in half. Depending on the moisture level, the beans will split in half or squish. I’ve seen this a number of times with soybeans, which go through essentially the same process, but it seems like a good way to chip a tooth to me!

Once your beans are dry, they’re ready to be picked. I found it easiest to pull up the plants and flip them upside down to pull the pods off. I then left the pods on a cookie sheet to continue to dry. Drying is critical for beans to help them store longer. After drying on the cookie sheet for a few days I started shelling the beans. It is not a difficult process. The pods should readily open if they have the papery texture and the beans should fall right out. The main setback is that you get anywhere between 20-50 pods per plant. I ended up with about 40 plants, so I had quite a few pods to shell. I didn’t find a quick way to shell them, aside from one at a time. I tried crushing the pods and shaking/rolling them to get the beans to fall out, but that didn’t speed the process up. If you know a quicker/ more efficient way let us know!

After shelling, storage is easy. I’ve left my beans in a quart mason jar. This should allow the beans to store for about a year. You don’t need to seal the jars; however, vacuum sealing the beans will allow them to last much longer. The enemies for storage are air and moisture. Air allows the oils to start to go bad in the beans. This will make the beans harder to rehydrate. Moisture on the other hand allows bacteria and fungi to grow with your beans. Proper drying and vacuum sealing are the best ways to avoid both of these issues.

Overall, my black/dry bean experiment was a success. They are as easy to care for and grow as green beans, and require less maintenance because you don’t have to worry about harvesting the beans each week. Beans in general are great to grow in the garden because they are fairly disease tolerant, and can be planted close enough together to completely shade out weeds. My favorite part of the dry bean process is shelling the beans. While it’s not fast, it’s the perfect activity for a lazy summer afternoon in the shade. Just grab a few friends, a shady tree, some sweet tea, and the time will fly by!

If you’ve never grown black/dry beans, I hope this episode encourages you to try them next year. If you’ve got any questions or comments, send me an email or fill out our form. That’s all for this article from This Week in the Garden, stay tuned until next time.