How Do You Know When to Pick Dry Beans & Peas?

This year in the Demo Garden we have several types of beans and peas that are typically harvested in their “dry” state rather than the fresh state. I don’t usually recommend that most home gardeners plant these types of crops, simply because the yield is too low for the amount of space you can dedicate to them, especially if you eat lots of dried beans! However, we had a couple of instances where we wanted to demonstrate this type of crop this year, so we went for it.

Of course, one of the challenges for a Demonstration Garden like us is that we like everything to be attractive all the time. And drying down beans isn’t really an attractive process, especially when you add Spider Mites to the mix.

We have the ‘Lingua di Fuoco’ Borlotto Beans in the Italian Garden and the cowpeas and chickpeas in the Taste of India Garden. So, how do you know when to harvest? The picture above is of the ‘Lingua di Fuoco’ beans that are clearly nearing the end of their lives. But just because the plants look bad doesn’t necessarily mean it is time to pick the beans.

Ideally, you want to leave the pods on the plants until the pods feel dry and crispy (no moisture in the pods). This usually means that the beans are nearly dry or fully dry and they can be shelled and stored. If there is still moisture in the pods, but we are expecting a rainy spell (which could cause mold) you could pick the beans and lay them out on a screen to dry the rest of the way. You don’t want to pick green pods unless you are planning to eat the beans in the fresh state rather than drying them.

The cowpeas are a little different, in that the pods start drying well, but the plants are still crazy and growing. In comparison, the bush beans are pretty much done. Again, the key is for the pods to be dry with beans rattling in them when you give a little shake.

The chickpeas are pretty similar. The plants are showing more signs of dying back than the cowpeas, but there are already dry pods. There are also a lot of empty pods. While it could be the heat, many of the empty pods have a hole in them, indicating to me that there are some opportunistic caterpillars around!

And yes, this variety of chickpea, ‘Black Kabouli,’ is supposed to be black.

So when the peas or beans are perfectly dry (either after picking or after letting them dry more) they are ready to be stored in jars or bags until you want to use them. If they are well dried, they should be able to just sit in the cupboard. I would say it is also important to sort through them before storage and get rid of any that show signs of mold or moisture.

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on August 6, 2014, in Harvesting & Eating and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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