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Growing and harvesting your own dried beans

August 18, 2017 | By | Reply More

dried beans

Cherokee Trail of Tears dried beans

Every year at this time as I walk through my overgrown vegetable garden, I question my sanity. My spring self gets overzealous about planting time and I overdo it, screwing royally my summer self. My garden doesn’t look good, and I struggle to keep up with the harvest.

Once I finally harvest, the next project of making sure I use all my goodies while they are still fresh begins. The wet, cool spring and very wet summer rendered my tomato plants sick and unproductive. I still managed to put up 10 quarts of Romas and make several quarts of soup from my Dr. Wyche’s Yellow tomatoes. I eat raw cucumber salads every single day and now I need to find something to do with a half dozen beautiful eggplants.

There are some plants that save my sanity such as garlic or the pole beans I plant specifically to harvest for dried beans. Growing beans and harvesting them dry is easy because the beans are only ready to

dried beans

Scarlet runner beans’ showy flowers

harvest when the pods are past mature – they should be shriveled up, brown and dry. you can let them hang there for a long time. Then, once harvested, they will store in your pantry for months with no urgent need to be used right away. Dried beans can be the nutritious and substantial center of winter meals: bean stews, soups, salads and slow cooker meals. And, of course you can save a few of the beans to replant next season.

Every year, I grow Scarlet Runner beans for this purpose. I plant the seeds in galvanized pots, and the graceful vines climb up the trellis in the center of the garden. Hummingbirds cannot resist the masses of showy red flowers that precede huge pods of large beans. The cooked beans are firm in texture, but inside they are buttery and smooth. They hold up well in slow cooked stews.

This year, I added another one: Cherokee Trail of Tears. These beautiful heirloom beans are small, shiny and black. I think they will be perfect for black bean soup, baked vegetarian black bean and spinach enchiladas and this other favorite easy recipe I love.

Planting beans

Beans are disease and pest free in my garden. Amend the soil in your garden with composted manure in

dried beans

Young and mature bean pods

late winter. When the soil has warmed and the threat of frost has passed, sow the seeds. Soaking bean seeds in water for several hours prior to planting speeds germination. I sprinkle the damp seeds with a legume inoculant before planting to help increase yields and improve the nitrogen fixing capacity of beans. Planting beans, especially with an inoculant, is great for your soil and will improve conditions for the next crop you plant in that spot.

Follow the planting depth suggestions on the seed package. In general, large seeds can be planted deeper than small seeds.

Then, stand back! Beans grow quickly in the warm weather. Make sure you have something for your vines to crawl up. Pole beans can be massive plants that, because they grow vertically, won’t take up a lot of space even in a small garden. Many pole bean plants produce pretty flowers that pollinators can’t resist.

Harvesting dried beans

Plant your seeds in full sun for best results. After flowering, you’ll start seeing all the pods hanging from the vines. Do nothing with these beans. Instead, go tend your tomatoes, find a neighbor to take some of your zucchini bumper crop and make pesto with your fresh basil. Only in late summer will you see those same bean pods looking brown and dry. Pick them at your leisure. Choose a quiet time when you can sit in the kitchen, crack open the now brittle pods and retrieve the beans.

dried beans

These dry pods are ready to harvest

Store your dried beans in paper or cloth bags and put them in a cool, dry place such as your kitchen pantry. When you cook beans you’ve grown yourself, cooking times may not be nearly as long as the all day project of cooking supermarket dry beans. That’s because yours will be fresher. Cooking dry beans couldn’t be easier assuming you know how to boil water, and the flavor and texture is far superior to canned beans.

Dried beans worth growing

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is my go-to source for nearly my entire garden. Here are some suggestions for beans to grow and harvest dry:

  • Any of the runner beans
  • Ojo de cabra or “eye of the goat” beans
  • Jacob’s cattle beans – these are a bush variety, so they’ll need more space to grow
  • Good mother stallard beans
  • Cherokee trail of tears beans
  • Henderson’s black valentine beans

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Category: General, Home and Garden, Kitchen Garden

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