At this time of year, you may be coming to the end of your bean harvests and may be considering how to collect and store the bounty. French beans and runner beans may now be at the stage where they can be harvested to provide seed beans for next year as well as a bountiful supply of beans that you can dry for storage over the winter months.
Seed beans that you wish to replant next year should be left to dry in your polytunnel off the plants for at least two weeks. It is best to pull up your bean plants at the time of harvest and this should be done shortly before the first frost in your area. After this you can shell the beans or leave them in their shells until the planting season arrives. While they are drying, beans are very prone to being eaten by mice and other rodents and so you should bear this in mind when considering where to store them. A hanging shelf in your polytunnel could provide a solution.
Only the beans from your best and most productive plants should be saved for re-planting. Others can be dried and stored for use in cooking over the winter months. It is important to make sure that the beans are fully dried before you place them into airtight containers. Do not harvest the beans until the pods have turned dry and crisp, then, as with the others for resowing, leave beans to dry further in your polytunnel for a couple of weeks. When placing your dried beans in containers, check them over carefully and only store beans that are entirely dry, whole, and blemish free.
Dried beans can be used in a wide range of hearty winter recipes. The important thing to remember, however, is that dried beans take a long while to cook – you cannot rush the process or you will end up with hard and inedible beans. While some people advocate soaking beans overnight, the truth of the matter is that this makes very little difference to either cooking time or – ahem – the flatulence causing properties of beans. It is better simply to cook beans in water on your hob for a couple of hours. The exact time taken to cook the beans on a steady simmer will depend on the type of beans along with how long they have been stored. The more recent the harvest, the less time will be required.