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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.

Friday PhotoEssay

How about all that rain this week? I’ll be honest that excessive rain comes with its own problems in the garden, but I can’t complain too much yet. If we’re getting 3 inches of rain a week all summer…well…there are limits. That should help with the Cheney Reservoir though. We could only be so lucky in that case. We ended up with 3.3 inches yesterday, and we really saw the benefits of our drainage system, as we had no standing water in the garden at all.

Here’s the whole garden today. The main visible difference is the addition of the straw mulch, although there are many more changes when you get closer!

The sugar snap peas are continuing to produce just enough for a little snack when you walk through the garden. I guess that’s the point of the Snack Garden, right? Read the rest of this entry

Friday PhotoEssay

Wow! It was almost like having a whole week of spring weather! The garden is looking good, especially the tomatoes. We’ve had 2 years of tomato troubles here in the Demo Garden, so I’m happy to see normal growth and some flowers starting.

The garden doesn’t look that much different than last week, other than that hint of purple over in the herb garden where the sage is in full bloom.

Here’s a closer look at the sage. It is looking beautiful! I love the purple next to the gold variety of Lemon Balm.

One of the Spiderwort that was planted in the new Shade Garden this week.

The container of sugar snap peas in the Kids’ Snack Garden is starting to have some peas. There definitely aren’t enough to do much with, except grab one for a snack, of course!

We pulled the Easter Egg Radishes and the lettuces from the Kids’ Snack Garden this week. They were a lot bigger than I usually let the radishes get. Some of them were probably a little bit woody.

We’ve got tomato flowers! I’m just starting to see a few flowers on the determinate varieties and the cherry/grape varieties. Not surprisingly, the heirlooms and the ones with longer days to maturity don’t have any flowers (or buds) yet. I’m really hoping for a good tomato year!

We have chives in one of the herb containers this year, and it is blooming as well. I guess the theme today is purple and blue flowers, huh? Since the plant is small, the flowers are pretty small yet too.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay

I guess we had a week of spring and now we’ve moved on to summer! It’s okay…the weather is more normal for this time of year and our newly planted eggplant will appreciate it.

The whole garden as of today, May 17th. The main visible difference from last week are the trellises. Oh yeah, and the signs. The signs were a ton of work, but I’m glad we got them done and they look good.

Since the Demo Garden is on Garden Tour this weekend, I decided to pull one of each of the garlic and shallot varieties to show the differences at this time of year. I took pictures of each one because there are some very startling differences. Watch for that post next week. This is the ‘Maiskij’ variety, which is getting relatively close to harvest, especially compared to the others. It is a really pretty color too. I know that’s an important factor for an underground vegetable!

The variegated Ginger Mint was really small when we planted it. It’s still really small, but it has about tripled in size in the last 10 days. The variegation is really pretty.

The sugar snap peas in the container near the Kids’ Snack Garden all of a sudden started blooming. I don’t know if they just came on quickly or if I just wasn’t paying attention.

The Easter Egg radishes have also doubled in size this week. The chewed on spots are bigger too. Ugh.

This is the ‘Tiny Tim’ tomato that the Hort Therapy group planted in the accessible garden. It is our first blooming tomato plant! The plant is still really small, but it is supposed to stay only about 12-15″ tall. It’s got a lot of blooms for a small plant.

Have a great weekend! Come on out to the Garden Tour if you are looking for garden inspiration!

Friday PhotoEssay

We are busy preparing for Herb Day today! Come on out to the Extension office from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. to learn about growing and cooking with herbs. The Kansas Grown! Farmers’ Market will be in the parking lot until noon, and there will be lots of opportunities to buy your herb plants for the year. For more information, check out the event flyer.

We got our shipment from Richters Herbs yesterday of a few herbs that I haven’t seen around here before. This is the Nutmeg Thyme. I was surprised how tiny the leaves are! Maybe once it is planted and gets more sun it will get a little bigger. I didn’t remember the leaves being this tiny though. We also got Rose Petal thyme, Mint thyme, Ginger mint, and Sweet Aztec. Sweet Aztec is in the mint family and has super sweet leaves, kind of like stevia.

I was all set to bring the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant inside for the last couple of days, but then one of the Master Gardeners pointed out that we could use the cold frame. I’m still not used to having the cold frame here! We tucked everything inside and closed the lid, and it’s all looking great this morning after being out there for the past couple of days. We probably could have left it closed a little longer, but we wanted to get it open before the sun hit it and started cooking things inside.

The perennial herb garden is really looking spectacular! A couple months ago, we were sure most everything had croaked. Now it is looking great. The oregano and sage are looking particularly nice.

The ‘Red Beard’ onion is now flowering. It is really past time to pull them out, but I wanted to leave them in just until they bloomed so that I could get some pictures. The flowers are not as nicely ornamental as chive flowers. Now to get them pulled out before they go to seed! We need the spot for tomatoes anyway.

The sugar snap peas in the container by the Kids’ Snack Garden are growing like crazy and paying no attention to the weather. They kind of need something to climb on, but then again, they seem to be doing fine just climbing on each other.

Have a great weekend! Next week is going to be busy with planting (finally!).