Your kitchen decor and pantry will both benefit greatly from an assortment of heirloom dry beans. The array of colors and patterns will delight the eye as well as your palate! AND beans, peas, and lentils have the added benefit of fixing nitrogen, improving your garden soil.
There is booming interest in what our great grandmothers called dried shell beans. The kind that often require soaking and long cooking times, a process that has been passed up in favor of pre-cooked, canned beans. Canned beans can be a substitute for kidney or pinto beans you soak and cook yourself. But you will never experience heirloom beans, like Hidatsa Shield beans or Hidatsa Red, in a supermarket can. Nor will a can of supermarket beans compliment your fall decor like a mason jar filled with an array of colorful beans of every color, size and pattern. And they are so EASY to store!
Dry beans are popping up at farmers markets, food coops, menus, school and home gardens… and of course seed catalogs. These attractive heirlooms can grace the dinner plate in a diversity of recipes such as soup, chili, sauces, bean humus, veggies burgers, or as a simple side dish, cooked firm with a butter coating.
Harvesting & Drying
Dry beans should be picked as the pods dry down on the vine and turn tan in color. We hope you had a bumper harvest of dry beans! We have bunches of them dried and waiting to be shelled out. Read on to learn how we do it!
We spread them out on an curtain sheer or some netted fabric for a week or so, stirring them a couple of times a day for the first few days, to help them dry down a bit more. Then we tie two corners together on each side, loop a string through knots to make a bundle, and hang them in a dry, shaded, well-ventilated place to thoroughly dry. We hang them in our garage and our barn.
We usually leave them hang until late-September to mid-October when the pods' shells are dry and brittle. Then drop them into an 18 gallon rough tote or large container and walk on them, crushing the pods and releasing the beans. We call this process the ‘bean stomp’ or ‘bean dance’ but don’t ‘stomp’ too hard! Wear soft-soled shoes and place a piece of carpet under your container to absorb some of the force and prevent cracking.
Who needs a gym; this is a FREE and PRODUCTIVE workout. You could play your favorite dance music during this step! Kids love doing this—so if there are younger kids around, involve them in the fun!
Step out and shimmy the container back and forth. This causes the empty pod shells to rise to the top and the beans to gravity to the bottom. Repeat the stomping process. Don’t ‘stomp’ too hard! Shimmy again and skim the pods off, checking for any stray beans that didn’t drop out of the shells.
You can also screen the beans over a wire mesh or hardware cloth with big enough screen size to allow the beans to drop through. This will screen out any unshelled pods for you to drop back in the rough tote to repeat the process.
On a breezy day, winnow the chaff out of the beans. Here is a picture of me winnowing beans with a group of 4-H kids! They thought it was great fun!
As an alternative to wind, you can use a fan to create a more even air stream. Wind can be gusty and unreliable, making the process more difficult. From above the fan, drop the beans through the airstream into a rough tote or box and the chaff will blow away, leaving the beans nice and clean. Make sure the container is deep enough to prevent beans from bouncing out. Again, placing a carpet under the container, will help prevent any cracking.
For you video-lovers, check out our companion YouTube video!
Once your beans are dry and free of chaff, handpick any discolored or split beans. Then store them in a sealed container, such as a sealed pail or in mason jars sealed with a lid on a kitchen shelf.
Our best to you,
Theresa & Dan