How To Preserve a Glut of Runner Beans From Your Polytunnel

Welcome to Top of the Crops - today, you will learn how to preserve runner beans in a polytunnel. For more gardening insights, be sure to check out our blog Polytunnel Gardening too!

Preserving Runner Beans

Preserving runner beans is a priority for home growers, who do not want to waste any of the food that they grow. 

Runner beans can be a fantastic polytunnel crop. Not only will they grow upwards, allowing you to really make the most of the space, they will also provide a bountiful harvest. In fact, sometimes runner beans can produce such a bountiful harvest that it can be difficult to know what to do with all the food you have grown. 

Fortunately, while fresh green runner beans will not keep for long in your fridge, there are a number of ways to preserve your beans to make sure that you can still make use of them at a later date. 

The most common way to preserve runner beans is to freeze them. But you might also consider older preservation techniques such as 

  • salting, 

  • pickling and canning, 

  • and drying shelled beans. 

How to Freeze Runner Beans

If you have space in the freezer than freezing runner beans is one of the easiest methods of preservation. 

Here is a guide to undertaking this very simple process, step by step:

  • Step one: Pick your runner beans. Runner beans are usually harvested when they are around 15 to 20cm long. 
  • Step two: Rinse the beans in cold water to make sure they are clean. 

  • Step three: Slice the runner beans into pieces of the desired size, discarding tough stalks and ends and any stringy edge pieces. 

  • Step four: Blanch your beans (see below).

  • Step five: Spread out the blanched beans on a baking tray in the coldest part of your freezer to ensure they do not all freeze together. 

  • Step six: As soon as they are frozen, place the frozen beans into storage containers of portion size, or sufficient for one meal for your household.

  • Step seven: Place these containers back in the freezer for use as and when required.

How to Blanch Runner Beans

If you are not familiar with the term, to blanch vegetables is simply to boil them for a brief period of time before they are frozen. 

Typically, runner beans are blanched for 2-3 minutes, depending on their size. Smaller pieces will not need quite as long as larger slices. 

  • Prepare a pan of water and heat this to a rolling boil. 

  • Add your runner bean pieces. 

  • While the beans are boiling, prepare a bowl filled with very cold or ice-filled water. 

  • Once the 2-3 minutes has elapsed transfer the beans to the bowl of icy water. 

  • Let them cool before freezing. 

How to Freeze Runner Beans Without Blanching

Though blanching can be beneficial, it is certainly perfectly possible to freeze runner beans straight from the garden after washing and prepping them, without the blanching process. 

Freezing Runner Beans Without Blanching Step By Step

If you decide to forgo the blanching process then you can simply follow steps one to three and steps five to seven as above. 

Note that blanching is not absolutely necessary if the precise taste and texture of the defrosted beans is not of paramount importance – frequently people say that they cannot tell much difference at all. 

If you only plan to freeze your beans for a short period of time then the difference tends to be less pronounced and so you may not really need to blanch your beans at all. 

Can Other Beans Be Frozen Without Blanching?

If you are growing other green beans such as French beans in your garden then these can also be frozen with or without blanching. 

There can, again, be a slight difference to the flavour and texture of beans that have not been blanched but in many instances the beans will still taste good and you will not be able to detect a huge amount of difference as long as you are not freezing your beans for too long. 

How are Runner Beans Affected by Freezing?

Freezing is a good way to preserve runner beans and other green beans. But freezing them can only keep them at top quality for a certain period of time. Though freezing will keep beans fresh for a certain length of time, the quality will begin to degrade after a certain amount of time has elapsed. 

Usually, it is best to make use of the runner beans that you have frozen within 3-6 months if you want to enjoy them at their best. They will typically still be edible after this time but will not have quite as good a taste or texture. 

How to Use Frozen Runner Beans

Runner beans usually do not need to be defrosted before they are used, and they can be used from frozen in a wide range of recipes. You can simply place them in boiling water and boil them briefly, or add them into a pan with other meal ingredients and they should be tender, tasty and cooked perfectly within 3-5 minutes. 

You can also defrost them if you wish before using them, simply by running them under cold water for a few minutes. But this is not really necessary in most cases and if you decide to take this route remember that defrosted beans need to be used immediately for health safety reasons. 

What to Cook with Runner Beans

There are plenty of excellent runner bean recipes to consider. Here, I share just a handful of the ways in which I like to cook with my own home-grown runner beans. 

But aside from runner bean curries, runner bean risottos, runner bean omelettes or quiches, cottage pies, Mediterranean-style bakes and casseroles, and chutneys and other pickled preserves, I also use runner beans in many other recipes. 

In our household, for example, we also enjoy them in a range of different pasta dishes, pasta salads, in a warm potato salad, in chillis and hotpots, etc...

Of course, even with all the great recipes for runner beans that you can choose from, you may still be left with more beans that you can use right away. If your freezer is full and you do not have the space to preserve all your beans in this way, then you may need to look into some alternative preservation methods. 

Salting Runner Beans

One age-old method of preserving runner beans (if your freezer is too full) is to layer them in salt in a large, wide-mouth jar or other preserving container. You will need roughly one pound of salt for every three pounds of beans. 

Always finish with a thick layer of salt and press down to exclude as much air from the layered mix as possible. Seal the container with a tight fitting lid and make sure light is excluded from the contents. When needed, take out beans, rinse under running water and then soak for up to two hours before cooking in the usual way.

Salting can be an effective method for preservation as long as it is done correctly. But remember that in the modern day, we are often trying to limit our salt intake for health reasons, and although much of the salt is washed away, it is important to note that you will still be taking in more salt than may be good for you when you eat beans preserved using this method. 

Canning or Bottling – Runner Bean Chutney and Other Preserves

Another way to preserve runner beans is to can or bottle them. 

Pickling on its own was also traditionally used as a preservation method for runner beans. However, today, it is safer to process chutney and other preserves using trusted canning or bottling instructions to avoid any potential health concerns. 

You can cook them into a chutney or another preserve of this sort and for food safety, to can or bottle this with processing time in a hot water bath canner. 

Runner bean chutney is a classic, though there are plenty of different recipes to choose from. Choose a recipe that appeals and you could have a delicious chutney to go with your cheese platters.

One great recipe for a runner bean chutney, for example, involves:

  • 1kg runner beans
  • 3 large onions
  • 200ml malt vinegar
  • 200ml white wine vinegar
  • 250g sugar
  • and salt, mustard, garam masala and turmeric to taste.

First, soften the onions in the malt vinegar, then add cooked, drained runner beans. Simmer for around 10 minutes. Next add 3tbsp of the white wine vinegar to your spices (to taste) to make a smooth paste and add this to your onions and beans, stirring well. 

Add the sugar and remaining white wine vinegar. Now gently simmer the chutney for around 20 minutes, stirring to prevent it sticking. Transfer the chutney into sterilised jars. It should last around a month but it is safer to process it before storage if you plan to use it over a longer period of time. 

You can also try pressure canning if you have the equipment. This is more popular in the United States than it is in the UK but some people do it here too. Pressure canning involves processing jars of food in a pressure canner, which is the safe preservation method for low-acid foods – like runner beans and other green beans. 

Drying Beans Out of Pods

We here in the UK are mostly growing runner beans to harvest the pods as a green vegetable. But it is also well worthwhile remembering that we can also leave the beans to mature and harvest the beans that form inside as a pulse. 

This is often overlooked in the UK and this is a shame, since growing your own beans for drying can potentially give you a healthy and abundant food source throughout the year. Dried runner beans, like other dried beans, can be a great protein source for sustainability-minded home growers. 

If your runner beans have matured past the point where the green pods are tasty, you can still harvest the beans that will mature within.

Leave the pods on the plants to mature fully and begin to dry out, then continue the drying process, shelling the mature beans, washing and drying them thoroughly before storing them for the winter months in an airtight container. 

Dried beans should be soaked overnight before cooking and should then be boiled for ten minutes, then simmered for a long cooking period before they are ready to eat. They take a while to prepare but are a good source of nutrition over the winter months.


Can you freeze runner beans without blanching first?
What happens if you don't blanch the beans before freezing?
What is the best way to freeze fresh beans?


BBC Good Foods. (2020) Runner Bean Recipes. [online] Available at: 

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preserving runner beans in a polytunnel in the UK