7 Nov 2011

From has-beans to stored beans

Looking out of the window yesterday morning at drab skies, I was happy to spend some time in the kitchen de-podding a stack of beans.  Having recently spent less time in the garden than I'd like, the last of my Cosse Violette beans were left to grow big and warty on the vine and, in truth, I'd had enough of eating beans, beans, beans.  The York Rise children grew beans up wigwams on their balconies and bags of beans were taken to elderly neighbours but, even so, I had plenty.  I've frozen a few but, having only the bottom half of my fridge/freezer for storage, there wasn't much space left after leaving a respectful amount of room for ice-cream (made in the New Forest, ultra-yummy, very essential).  Last year the elderly pods were chucked out with the vines when the beds were cleared;  this year, I'm thinking that there's food still there for the taking, a handful of beans will bulk up a soup or stew nicely. And, anyway, I haven't done this before so... why not?

So, before clearing away the vines and wigwams, I asked UK Veg Gardeners for advice and Elaine (truly a Woman of the Soil if ever there was) recommended cutting off the plant at ground level and, preferably, hanging the whole plant upside down in a garage until dry. As this method was impractical for me (small flat, no garage, dampish shed), I left the plants and pods in-situ which seemed to work quite well. (Probably due to mild weather.)  As the vines died back, the pods turned yellow and dry-ish which is what's needed.  I picked them before the drizzling weather started a few days ago and have had them finishing off indoors in my nice warm kitchen, laid out flat across those wire trays usually used for cooling cakes.

When the pods become dry and crispy, that's the time to shell the beans.  They reminded me of something mummified, perhaps to be found in the Ancient Egyptian section of the British Museum!

Yellowing bean fingers

But I digress. A twist of the pod will snap it open and inside the almost dry beans are waiting to be pushed out with a finger or thumb.

drying bean pods

(I think perhaps mine wouldn't have had that orange "belly button" if they'd been dried more swiftly indoors.)

The outer pods can be chucked onto the compost and the beautiful beans must be spread out on trays to further dry for a few days.  A warm airing cupboard is ideal but anywhere indoors will do.  Once that's done, and you're sure the beans are thoroughly dry, put them in an airtight container and store in a cool dry place until needed.  The beans will need soaking overnight before using, then drained, rinsed, topped up again with water and boiled vigorously for 10 minutes before simmering until tender  - or keep a few back to sow back into the veg patch or garden next year.  (If this whole thing doesn't work, the beans can be strung onto a long string and used as decoration;  it might look rather jolly strung around a christmas tree instead of loathsome plastic tinsel. Apologies to anyone who likes tinsel. )

Pebble beans
Hmm, just like pebbles on a beach...  
As I'm new to this drying lark, I turned to Piers Warren's 'How to Store Your Garden Produce' for clarification and followed his advice.  His article lists varieties of beans that are recommended for drying which could be useful next year;  these are: Marie Louise (pink/purple two toned beans), Czar (large butter beans), Pea Bean (the one that looks like tiny killer whales), Borlotto (we all know this one with its lovely red speckled pods) and Cannellini beans (good for making your own baked beans).  I also like the sound of Canadian Wonder, a dwarf French bean whose young pods can be eaten whole or can be left to mature for red kidney beans. I do love a nice chilli!


  1. I've never dried beans but have loads of runners and French beans blanched and frozen for winter use. I inherited my mum and dad's freezer when they moved house in September, ideal for freezing more produce from the allotment. I find beans so tactile, I could sit and stroke them for hours, and many and visually attractive too.

  2. Ewww...gross image of mummy fingers flashed through my mind ;) The beans are lovely though! Do you plan on saving some to grow for next year or will they all be for the pot? I've been quite terrible about saving seed from year to year but am going to try to be more diligent in 2012.

  3. Jo, how lucky to have a second freezer - I did wonder about trying to get another freezer from Freecycle but the ones being handed on are usually very high energy users so I decided to enjoy fresh veg and freeze just a little bit of it. And, yes, they're very tactile -lovely smooth surfaces like pebbles. Lovely!

    Tanya, I've got quite a lot so some will definitely be for the plot and the rest for the pot!

  4. Glad your beans have dried successfully - sometimes they can go mouldy in the process - thanks for the mention, silly, but I feel more proud of being a 'woman of the soil' than anything else really. Enjoy your beanfeast.

  5. Elaine, your advice was much appreciated and your pride in your internet moniker is justified I'm sure. I'm frequently humbled by your superior knowledge! Interesting that the beans can go mouldy, first time lucky (again) for me!

  6. Those beans look beautiful. I'm going to give borlotti beans a try next year, partly I have to admit because they look so pretty. My frozen french beans are always a disappointment. They are always soggy. I think it's because I don't have fast freeze on my freezer. I love the idea of using the beans as a decoration, you could even spray some silver or gold if that didn't feel like too much of a waste. With you completely on the tinsel front.

  7. I have even podded my runner beans. They looked just like your image, sort of mummified, but inside were enormous pink and black beans. I cooked them for 15 mins then cooled and froze them to use in veggie chili dishes. Their size really absorbs the added flavours.

  8. That was perfect timing - I am off to the allotment for the first time in over ten days, and think I will be faced with quite a lot of beans that are, well, past it. But not for soups and stews! So thank you, I will give this a go too.

  9. Wellywoman, likewise with my frozen beans, definitely rather disappointing as a side veg but okay in soups, veg chilli, etc. I'm all for a bit of natural decoration around the festive season!

    Backlanenotebook - another lovely blog for me to discover! Welcome to the Urban Veg Patch. I like your idea of podding runner beans; I don't grow them as I prefer french beans, but you've given me pause for thought there.

    Janet, I hope you've come back from your allotment with bags of bean bounty. Let the fun begin!


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