Saturday, February 14, 2015

Drying Shelling Beans

Dried shelling beans are a staple in our pantry - they're a very shelf stable food that makes a hearty addition to meals. Last year we had a good growing season and were able to dry several quarts. My favorite shelling bean is cannellini, but we also grew Tongue of Fire and Kenearly Yellow Eye beans.

If you're considering growing beans, add several rows to your garden and preserve the excess. Drying beans is easy and you'll be able to enjoy your garden goodies all year long in a variety of dishes.

Since much of the drying is done in the pod while it's on the plant, you'll want to plant beans in wide rows with enough spacing between plants to provide pods with plenty sun and air circulation.  If plants are too close, thin the stand. Pods are ready to harvest when leaves turn brown and wilt. The pods will be brittle and crumble easily.

Strip the beans out of the pod, discarding damaged beans. Place shelled beans in a brown paper bag or other container that allows for air to circulate around the beans. Beans are dry enough to store when they are hard, similar to commercially dried beans. Once the beans are completely dry, place in an airtight container with a tight fitting lid, like a mason jar, and store in the pantry.

A note about harvesting at the right time: Drying beans can sprout in the pod if they're exposed to rain. If your pods have started to dry and it looks like rain, pick the pods, shell and lay out beans to dry. It will take a bit more time, but you'll save the harvest.

Top to bottom: Cannellini, Kenearly Yellow Eye and Tongue of Fire.
All of the pictured beans were picked early for fresh eating. Later in the season,
we harvested and dried the cannellini and Kenearly beans.

The Kenearly beans dry beautifully. These will hold in the pantry for
at least a year. We usually eat them long before that!

We add our beans to soups and casseroles, but our favorite way to eat them is in
savory homemade baked beans. So much better than the commercial stuff!

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