At this time of year, you may well be thinking about processing and storing some beans and peas for use over the winter months. You may be wondering how to harvest, dry and store beans and peas for winter use. Read on for some simple tips to help you store pulses successfully over the coming months.
Why Harvest Dry and Store Pulses for Winter Use?
While you may be more used to growing and eating fresh green beans and peas over the summer months, it is definitely also worthwhile considering whether you can grow peas and beans for pulses too.
Pulses are dried legumes. We eat few pulses here in the UK compared with much of the rest of the world, though historically, they were staples of the diet of most people in the British Isles. And what pulses we do eat are often imported from abroad. But it does not need to be this way.
Including more home grown pulses in the diet means cutting our carbon footprints, and eating better. They are an excellent protein source and can be a great choice if you are trying to live in a healthier and more sustainable way. Combine these pulses with rice, for example, and you will have a complete vegetarian or vegan protein source.
There are other ways to preserve beans for later use. Of course, rather than drying your peas and beans, you could choose to use them in a canning recipe. Canning means that you will have peas and beans to hand that can be used right away. But drying beans is simpler, requires no special equipment. It is a way to cheaply and easily store these pulses for later use. And you won’t have to worry about getting it wrong and making a mistake with canning procedure.
As long as the beans and peas are completely dried, and then stored in the right way, they should last right through winter and well beyond. You will need to do a little work to get them ready for eating. But for the benefits gained, this is well worthwhile.
Which Beans and Peas to Dry and Store
There are plenty of beans can also be grown which produce dry beans, rather than being eaten in the green. Drying or shelling beans in a range of different varieties can also be grown successfully here in the UK – especially when you have a polytunnel to grow them in. And there are also plenty of traditional drying or soup pea varieties to consider.
When it comes to beans, broad beans, green or French beans and runner beans can all be left to mature fully to harvest for dried beans at the end of the growing season.
You can dry a wide range of different pea varieties for use as a pulse. But it is best to opt for varietals that have been specifically bred for the purpose.
Harvest Beans and Peas for Drying and Storing
Beans and peas for drying are harvested when they fully mature within their pods. You will not harvest until the pods are brown and dry, and the seeds are coming loose and rattling inside. Cut off the dried pods from the plants, and bring them indoors for processing.
Rather than uprooting the entire plants, cut them off at the base of the stems leaving the root system in place. As these roots rot down, the nitrogen from these nitrogen fixing plants will be returned to the soil. You can also simply leave the plants themselves on the soil surface to rot down. Or you can simply add the stems and leaves of the plants to your composting system.
Drying Beans and Peas
Shell the peas or beans, removing them from their pods. The dried pods can of course be added to your composting system.
Spread the peas or beans out on trays or plates, ideally with some space between each one. Make sure there is reasonable air flow as this will help them to dry out. It should also help to avoid any issues with rot or moulds.
Leave them in a well-ventilated place, out of direct sunlight, for a month or so to completely dry. Give them a shake to turn them and move them around a little every now and then. This will help to ensure that they dry evenly, and do not remain moist where in contact with whatever they are placed on.
When the pulses are fully dry, they will be shrunken slightly, and will be lighter. When they are fully dry, they can be packed away by around early December.
Store some of your beans and seeds separately for seed for next year if you wish. The rest, which you plan to use for winter eating, seal into airtight containers. Glass jars with sealing lids can be ideal for this purpose, but there are a range of other receptacles that you could use.
Keep them in a dry, cool (but not frosty) place. With the right storage, your seeds should remain viable for at least the next two years. If you vacuum seal the dried beans or peas, they can last even longer. But it is worth noting that cooking these pulses will take much longer, and they may not taste as good, if they are kept really long term.
Using Dried Beans and Peas
If you are used to eating beans and peas fresh or from cans, then you may not realise that dried beans will take a long time to cook. Drying means makes a lot of sense because you can store them easily, and they will last for a long time. But you do need to bear in mind that you will need to soak and boil them before using them in your recipes.
Different beans and peas that have been dried will have difficult cooking times. But generally speaking, it will be best to soak your pulses overnight. And then boil them for 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the variety. How long they need to soften will also depend on how long they have been stored, and of course on how soft you need them to be for the recipe in question.
Do you grow beans and peas to dry for winter use? Share your favourite varieties, tips and suggestions in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.