I planted lots of beans this year. In the back garden area, I planted pole beans to grow up along the trellis (rattlesnake beans and tri-colored beans), and three rows of bush beans (two green beans, at different times hoping for a staggered harvest, and lima beans). I also planted black-eyed peas along the little strip of ground between our driveway and our neighbor’s.
Of all the beans, the black-eyed peas did the best. I don’t know if it’s because they got more sun during the day (that spot got sun starting mid-morning and lasting until sunset), or because that spot was surrounded by concrete and was likely very warm.
I went through and harvested all the dried bean pods from the black-eyed peas last week, and let them sit in a bag in the back yard, drying out. Today, I decided they were ready to be processed. I spent about half an hour sitting in the back yard, splitting the pods apart and picking out the dried beans, much like one would shell fresh beans. I’m pretty impressed with the amount of beans I got from the pods I’d harvested.
I was so invigorated by this, I decided to harvest the neglected green bean pods from my plants in the back yard. See, I’d grown all those beans, and hardly harvested any of them all summer. I spent about 10 minutes snipping the shriveled pods from their plants, wondering if there was anything inside them worth keeping. Since these beans aren’t designed for shelling — their skins are a bit thicker and smaller — I wasn’t sure if I’d even be able to pull them apart easily and whether it would take me forever to get a handful of beans. Hand-shelling was relaxing, but I figured there had to be a more efficient method, so I did some research and found different ways to thresh beans.
I settled on putting all the pods in a canvas bag and beating it against the cement steps. That worked really well. After a couple of minutes, I looked in the bag to see loose beans and lots of bits of shell — chaff. Then it was just an easy matter of picking out the larger bits of chaff, and then holding handfuls of beans and smaller bits and gently blowing on them to separate the chaff from the beans — winnowing. Not too long after, I had a handful of lovely white beans. I have no idea how they’ll taste, but they’ll go in a soup pot eventually.
Emboldened, I decided to harvest the few dried musica bean pods from the trellis, and see what I could do with them. These green beans are broad and are liked for not having many beans in each pod, so I knew I wasn’t going to get many dried beans from them. And these pods were larger and easier to open manually, so I went back to my hand-shelling method.
All-in-all, I got several cups of dried beans for about an hour’s worth of effort of planting and shelling. Not a bad ROI.