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Dry-preserving legumes and corn

Ann Copperowl


Joined: Jul 15, 2009
Posts: 13
Location: Western WA and Okanogan Highlands
This may be a question for another forum, but I'll start here. I've been a gardener for years, but I've never tried to preserve or store peas, beans, or corn in a dry form. I've always eaten them fresh and I really don't know how to harvest or process for dry preservation.

Do you leave them to dry on the plant, then harvest? If so, at what point do you harvest?  Or do you pick them when green, and then dry them? If the latter, is there any trick or technique to drying and storing to prevent rot?

Ann


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jeremiah bailey


Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
Dry preserving these crops is essentially the same as saving them for seed. You can use the end product for either feed (human or animal), or seed. This year I saved the seed from my snow peas (pisum sativum), and cowpeas (vigna unguiculata.) In both cases, I simply left the pods on the plant to dry. When they reach maturity, the pods and plants will die back and dry out. Some people believe that the drying plant helps dry the pods. I did it because it was relatively easy to harvest and shell the peas and beans after they were dry. The cowpea pods snapped off easily, while the snow peas took a bit more effort. Picking snow peas, or other p. sativum varieties seems easier when still green. Their pods seem to get really tough when dried. You can harvest any of the crops you mention while still green any time after reaching maturity. You can then provide a dry, well ventilated area for them to dry in. The key is the dry, well ventilated area. Also spread them out on a broad surface, such as a screen or cookie sheet. As long as the seeds have reached full maturity, you should be able to save for seed from this technique. Either way you can get save seed for next year or keep preserved for eating. For storing, you can test whether or not the seeds are sufficiently dry. Dropping them on a hard surface, countertop, table, etc. should yield a sharp "clack" sound. If there is any hint of a dull thud, they are not dry enough for storage. You can either store in paper or plastic. Storing in plastic has a tighter tolerance for dryness. The plastic won't breathe like paper and any excess moisture still in the seeds can lead to rot and mold. The sharp clack test will minimize any problems there. The upside of paper is its breathe-ability, which unfortunately is also its downside. You need to be more careful when selecting a place to store seeds in paper. A good compromise is wrapping the seed in paper then placing in a rigid, airtight, plastic or glass container. The paper and airspace acts as a buffer to help keep the seeds dry. A note about storing in plastic in a refrigerator: let the package return to room temperature before opening if you intend to only use a portion. Otherwise you inadvertently introduce moisture back into the seeds due to condensation. If that happens, you will need to re-dry them as described above. If you are saving for food purposes only and do not intend to save for seed, then you can use heat to speed the drying process. Placing seeds spread on a cookie sheet in a warm oven will do the trick. When they reach the sharp clack point, take them out and let them cool before storage.


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Jeremiah Bailey
Central Indiana
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
allow them to dry as much as possible on the plant..then remove them and spread them on trays to dry..finish them off in a low oven to kill off any insects and then cool completely..pack airtight..and they should keep basically forever..but will lose viability after about a year..and some older things will be more difficult to cook..will cook up hard..so don't keep them forever..eat within a  year..or plant the following year.


Brenda

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paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15607
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I know that when storing grains, some folks will throw a little diatomaceous earth in there to fight bugs and the like. 

I also have a vague memory of people using five gallon buckets (food grade) that seal well and throwing some dry ice in before sealing it.  The idea is that the dry ice releases a lot of CO2, which is heavy and then displaces the air in the bucket between all the grains.  So if a critter got in there, it wouldn't survive.


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jeremiah bailey


Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
I like that idea about the dry ice.
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I have seen the dry ice idea on several sites for preserving emergency food. very smart idea I think.

i have only done peas for seed but did just as others have. left them on the plant to dry. I would be hesitant to do the oven thing if I was planning on using them for seed, i would probably kill the seed.


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bunkie weir


Joined: Nov 05, 2009
Posts: 109
Location: eastern washington
    
    1
i try and let them dry on the vine before picking, unless a frost is coming, then i pick and lay on newspaper in trays to dry. one year i dried a lot of pea seed, an upon shucking them, i found loads of tiny bugs boring holes and coming out of the seeds. never had this happen before. since then, i found out about this method to take care of those little critters...

"Let the pods mature on the plant, and dry down before you pick them. they should get to corn husk dry stage before you shell them. Shell them out, and let them air dry farther for a week or so. If you are afraid there may be weevils or the like on the seeds, either mix a little diatomaceous earth with the seeds, or put them in the fridge for a couple of weeks, then in the freezer for a few days, then back in the fridge for a week or so, then into room temperature air. The sojourns in the fridge are for the benefit of the seeds respiration, before and after freezing. If you have the time and patience, do the process twice, as the return to room temperature for a week or so may/should trigger the hatching process in any surviving eggs."
 
 
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