Monday, October 27, 2014

Growing and Drying Beans

It's so fun growing different types of vegetables in the garden, and a few years ago, I ventured into growing dry beans. First to try were Great Northerns which did well, and this year, we tried Lima beans. We use Lima beans in soups regularly, but as they are a more expensive bean, I thought it would be nice if we could grow them ourselves (and it was a success!)

One thing that I like about growing dry beans is that the process is relatively simple . . . we plant them in wide rows about two feet across, and usually, they only need one weeding before the plants have grown large enough to shade the soil and prevent most weeds from growing.

Then after that first weeding (or a second if necessary) . . . you wait!

 One of the pods - they averaged about three beans per pod

Through the spring and summer, the rest of the garden grows and the other produce is harvested and either dried, frozen or canned. Meanwhile, the beans keep growing unattended (as long as there are not any significant pest and disease problems which need attention, that is.) 

By the time fall comes, and the pods start to dry, then comes the fun part! Harvesting the beans and shelling them.

Dry and ready to harvest! While some of the pods ended up looking like this one (I think from a disease that affected some of the plants late in the season), the beans inside were just fine.

One thing that was different with the Lima beans from the Great Northerns is that while I could let the entire plants of the latter dry before harvesting, I couldn't do that with the Lima beans. Not only did our unusually damp late summer/fall make some of the beans start sprouting in the pods, but when the pods are able to dry all the way out, they will soon burst open to scatter their seeds. So these ones were harvested as soon as the pods were entirely brown, yet the rest of the plant was still green.

I don't have any photos of the shelling part of the process, so you'll have to imagine a big pile of Lima bean pods on the table, a paper sack for the empty pods on the chair next to me, and one by one shelling each pod. :)

As you can see, the Jackson Wonder Bush variety that we grew are colorful!

Once shelled, the beans need adequate time to dry. I spread them in a fairly thin layer on a cookie sheet, and then let them dry for several weeks. Once you cannot dent them with a fingernail, they are ready to store.

 Now the Lima beans we grew this year are all ready to use and are in jars on our pantry shelf with all the other beans.

If you haven't tried growing dry beans before, consider adding some of these low maintenance vegetables to your garden next year!


  1. I love the jars of beans. Did you grow them all? or just lima beans? How long do they keep, dried? Do you save any for next season's planting? Where do you keep those?

    I cook a lot with beans. I can't have a garden where I am, but I'm storing up ideas for the future, and any plant I can start, weed once, ignore until harvest time, and easily preserve - that I also love to cook with - sounds perfect.

  2. Oooh Sarah, that makes me feel all Laura Ingalls Wilder-ish! I'd love to do it, but it'd take up a fair bit of space, which I don't really have, alas.

  3. I am sorry for the delay in answering your questions, Anonymous!

    I wish all the beans in our pantry were ones we had grown ourselves. :) In the photo, though, the only ones that we grew were the Lima beans. Dried beans keep for at least a couple of years, and I have heard that they can last indefinitely. The quality of the beans can go down as they age and often will need to be cooked longer.

    Yes, I did save back some beans for planting next year and had intended to mention that in this post, but forgot! They are stored in a glass jar with all of our other seeds that we have either leftover or have saved for next year.

    How fun to dream and prepare for your ‘someday’ garden! Whenever you are able to have one, you’ll be all prepared. :)

  4. Your comment made me smile, Rena! They do take up a fair bit of space unfortunately, though we got more beans than what I had expected from our 2’ by approx. 15’ row. And we would have had even more if the weather had been more cooperative!


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