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Small-ish Scale Dry Bean Harvesting

 
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I just brought in the dry seed from my green bean plants and was reminded of the pain that growing dry beans is.

A few years ago, I grew about 350 row-feet of dry beans and harvested them by hand. This included several hours crouched down in the mud pulling bean pods off of the plants, and a lot of time trying to separate the beans from the chaff.

My real question is, what methods are available for small to moderate dry bean harvesting? I know that there is plenty of information about very small scale growing that's labor intensive (basically what I did) and at the other end, you need a combine harvester.

What are good ways of getting all of the dry beans out of the field and processing them? I have seen a few videos on people building large drum threshers, but they can be lacking details sometimes.

Just wondering if anyone has any good advice or info about this. I'm looking at trying to grow a sizeable amount of dry beans this coming year and would like to know if there's a better way.

Thank you!
 
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This will be a somewhat oblique answer.

We *eat* a lot of dried beans....probably 1/3 -1/2 of our main-dish protein intake.  That said, a lot of those beans are not produced by us.....so what follows is not really a fair comparison.

Like you, I found that I got pretty fatigued crouched in the late-season garden trying to pull all pods cleanly off of the dead plants.  So I started just pulling whole plants at that stage since they are dead anyway and then, while standing, stripping the pods and clusters of pods...not so cleanly....into used, empty feed sacks.  Initially, I would take a day or two after that to thresh them all out by hand to produce the 'bean bin' of ready-to-cook beans.  But that was little more pleasant than the original harvesting.  So now the beans just stay in the feed sack in a cool, dry place until I need some for a meal.  I thresh out just enough for the meal, which usually is not so much, and leave the remainder in the pods within the bag until next time.  Just seems a lot more pleasant.  Additionally, unlike harvested small grains or corn, I don't find that I have to 'protect' beans from rodents and other pests.  So the bag is just left in the garage until I need more.

If I decide to get ambitious...or whimsical....with the remaining nice weather, I may try an option that has always intrigued me:  Using a snowblower to 'combine' small bean rows.  If I tie a feed sack over the snow chute, I may just get threshed beans after running it down the row.  My dry beans are already harvested.....but I could try it on the dried green beans still in the garden.  Hmmmmm,...
 
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We do a very old fashioned way with peas I imagine it would work with beans to if they are bush type.

Pick the whole bush and dry it inside, a barn floor/rafters etc works If you have nice sunny weather you could dry it outside
Take all your bushes and put them on a good floor solid concrete or a tarp over a worse floor and then smack them about with a flail (two heavy sticks joined with a bit of chain or rope)
After a while pick out the remainder of the bushes and then you can sweep just an inch or so from the ground, that gets rid of most of the bits of bush and pods.
brush everything into a bucket or 3 and then take it out into the wind (or use a fan) and pour from bucket to bucket to get rid of all the little bits.

Basically it's exactly the same method as any small grain.
 
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The grain bikes thresher and fanning mill is pretty dope. I want to build one of these and grow a ton of beans.
Staff note (Catie George) :

Great find! They give free plans for all 3 machines - here is the link to the thresher plans.
https://farmhack.org/tools/bicycle-powered-thresher

 
John Weiland
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Wow.....thanks for the link, Abe Coley.  Really neat project!
 
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I process small amounts of beans by putting whole plants in a tarp and stomping them, or wringing with my hands, then winnowing. I now want those pedal operated machines Abe linked!
 
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John Weiland wrote:

If I decide to get ambitious...or whimsical....with the remaining nice weather, I may try an option that has always intrigued me:  Using a snowblower to 'combine' small bean rows.  If I tie a feed sack over the snow chute, I may just get threshed beans after running it down the row.  My dry beans are already harvested.....but I could try it on the dried green beans still in the garden.  Hmmmmm,...



If you decide to try this, let me know how it does. My bean patch is only around 2/3 picked. I have over 300 row-feet of dry beans yet to go.

I keep eying the walk-behind combines and other small combines that might work with my garden tractor, but it seems those are only available in Asia.
 
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Carol Deppe’s books (The Resilient Gardener, and Breed your one Vegetable Varieties) include suggestions for how to harvest various seeds, including beans. She also selects for seeds that harvest easily.

From memory she harvest whole plants and stomps them in tarps, or in a large bucket.
 
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I harvest about 30 pounds of dry beans per year (500 row-feet). My technique is generally as follows:

Pull the dry plant up by the roots. Dislodge any dirt. (If I were more careful, I would cut them off with secateurs to minimize dirt even more, cause if I harvest dirt, I have to remove it later on.) Pile them on a canvas, and jump up and down on them, and/or beat them with a stick. Pick up the vines, shake, and set them aside. Rake off most of the chaff with my hands. Thresh some more. Winnow coarsely in the field. Winnow more carefully at home with a fan. Sieve with a colander with large enough holes to pass most dirt clods while retaining most beans. Hand sort to remove dirt clods that are the same size as the beans.

About 7 to 10 days later when the vines/chaff that I set aside have become really dry, thresh again to get any beans that were still damp/green the first time through. In my climate, beans dry in the field most years. On a rainy year, they can be pulled and left to dry on a canvas under-cover.

Another technique that I have used is to pull plants, and strike them vigorously against the inside of a large garbage can. The beans fall into the can, I discard the vine. This technique loses more beans than threshing on a tarp, but it's more fun!

The dry beans that I grow have been selected for this type of harvest. If I ever grow a bean that is hard to thresh by this method, it goes into the "Food Grade" container, and doesn't get replanted.

A harvest party is the most important part of harvesting beans... Invite your friends, family, customers, even strangers. Let everyone dance on the beans, and sing, and have a good time. Serve chili, refried beans, and/or other things made from beans harvested the previous year. That makes it a ritual: something to commemorate the cyclical nature of planting and harvest. After a few years, people will be calling to ask if they can attend the bean harvest festival.

dancing-with-seeds_640.jpg
Dancing on the seeds
Dancing on the seeds
 
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I usually cut off the base of the plants and beat them or give the pods a light squeeze to help a bit and then the beans usually just fall out. Pulling them up works too, but it pulls up soil with it which can get annoying.
 
John Weiland
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Although this thread is about *harvesting* dry beans, I was hoping to see if others have an opinion on *harvested* beans.....as in, do you notice flavor/quality decline if kept past one or more years of storage.  I can understand anything just getting "old" tasting after the 4-5 year mark, but do others keep dry beans for eating for several years or only for one year?  Thanks!
 
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The way I dealt with the achy back from harvesting, the muddy and moldy harvest and all the rest was to mostly just stop growing bush beans. We like green beans as well as dry and stooping over to pick them just got real old. Leaving a plant to mature dry beans in my climate just ends up with a mess of mud, mold and bugs.

There is a bit of a trade off of course in that you have to build a trellis but pole beans solve most all of those issues. Most pole beans are also indeterminate and just keep on producing. For green beans I can just leisurely walk along and pick what we want to eat or can. Same for dry except once they start finishing up they keep doing it for a long time. I just use an old pillow case to collect each days harvest and throw them all in a carboard box. Usually only get maybe a 1/4 to 1/2 pound per day and often we like to just go ahead and shell them out by hand, that way by end of season they are all perfectly clean and ready to store and eat.

The old pillow cases have a hole cut at one corner tied up with a string. If there are too many to mess with by hand or I get behind I just smash them down and beat them around on the cement patio a little, untie the string and shake the beans out. There is a bit of chaff mixed in doing it this way but I use a fan, or the wind if it's blowing good enough to winnow it out.

Issue with pole beans like I said is having to build the trellis, many of them will easily top any thing I've ever built and I can't reach them to pick, I hate dragging a step ladder into the garden. It is worth it too me though cause of the much nicer cleaner beans and the larger harvest per row foot.

I'm currently working on and making good progress on a happy medium. A landrace of pole beans that only get from 4 to 6 feet tall. Still up off the ground for easy picking and nice clean beans but needing less effort in trellising. A bean collector and SSE member I met online calls these beans semi-runner and I got several varieties from him. Also discovered a couple nice ones in Lofthouse's dry bush landrace. Surprisingly one of the best in production and growth habit came from a bag of store bought soup beans.

Concerning the flavor of older beans, I don't think I've ever noticed much difference but I don't generally keep them all that long. When ever I have a good harvest as in enough to stockpile a couple years worth canned and dry plus plenty more for seed I sow the older ones here and there as soil improvement. I have some right now that I expected would have frozen by now but our weather is such I may be picking beans in November.  
 
John Weiland
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Mark R.   Just to make sure you have not considered a 'hoop trellis'?...  The panels are easy to buy and bend and you can pick beans from the inside of the hoop tunnel.
Hoop1.JPG
[Thumbnail for Hoop1.JPG]
Hoop2.JPG
[Thumbnail for Hoop2.JPG]
 
Ellendra Nauriel
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Michael Cox wrote:
From memory she harvest whole plants and stomps them in tarps, or in a large bucket.



I'm seeing lots of advice that starts out with "pull the whole plants and then . . . "

It's the pulling so many plants that's the hard part! My body just can't do that enough to harvest what I need. Does anyone have any suggestions for equipment that will do that job without requiring a big tractor?

I do have a little tiny tractor. It's just a riding mower that's been customized to run certain kinds of attachments, but it's what I've got.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Ellendra Nauriel wrote:I'm seeing lots of advice that starts out with "pull the whole plants and then . . . "

It's the pulling so many plants that's the hard part! My body just can't do that enough to harvest what I need.



Host a party. Invite friends with teenage kids over. Have them pull the whole plants, and then...

Hire someone to help. Have them pull the whole plants, and then...

I wonder about -- Put a dull blade on your riding lawnmower. Attach the grass catcher. Winnow the clippings.

I wonder about -- Those pull behind leaf rakes. Seems like they'd work wonders as a been thresher.

You got a sickle mower on that tractor? Sicklemow. Rake into a pile. Thresh. Winnow.

It's amazing how fast a body can build strength if you do a little bit every day.

Pods can be picked one by one.

 
Ben Reilly
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John Weiland wrote:This will be a somewhat oblique answer.
So now the beans just stay in the feed sack in a cool, dry place until I need some for a meal.  I thresh out just enough for the meal, which usually is not so much, and leave the remainder in the pods within the bag until next time.  



Did you ever have problems with beans sprouting or going moldy in the pods? I've had mold problems every single time I've dried beans on the plants, some worse than others, but I could just not be timing the harvest well. Curious how they've held up being stored like that.
 
Ben Reilly
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Abe Coley wrote:

The grain bikes thresher and fanning mill is pretty dope. I want to build one of these and grow a ton of beans.



I've seen those sorts of threshers before, but that's probably the best-filmed one ever! Thanks Catie for providing a link to the plans, I'm going to give those a look over. That would certainly solve one part of the harvesting conundrum.
 
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I have no photos, since I've taken it apart since we're planning to move, but I built a wooden box with an open chute to one side that my "Mantis" rototiller sits on top of.  I would take heads of barley or pods of fava beans and stuff them into the chute to end up among the whirling blades. One or two passes and most of the seeds would be broken up from the pods or heads and be ready to winnow.  Another time I found that a small electric lawnmower would sit neatly in a wheelbarrow, with the blade kept away from the metal of the wheelbarrow by the mower's wheels and frame.  Set on top of a heap of cut barley grain and started....easy threshing!  Fluff up with a pitchfork to stir it up and this worked quicker than the tiller....and I imagine it would do bean plants pretty good too.  I imagine this would work as well if a sizeable area of pavement were available and a loose frame of wood laid out on it as a perimeter so beans don't roll or fly away....pile up the stuff in the middle and mow over it.
 
Alder Burns
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Oh, yeah, and FWIW when I lived in Georgia I found that cowpeas were much hardier than beans, harboring fewer pests and seeming to dry down nicely without going moldy no matter the weather.  Eventually I gave up the beans altogether there and relied on cowpeas alone for a dry grain legume.  I'd grow some beans just for green beans.  Here in dry CA, the fava bean takes pride of place, since it grows through the winter and spring mostly on natural rainfall, drying down in the summer.  Other grain legumes (except dry peas, but the birds made short work of these!)would need heavy irrigation to produce at all.
 
Mark Reed
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Ben Reilly, the problem of molding or sprouting in the pods is exactly why I've moved away from bush beans. General humidity in my climate let alone if it rains at the wrong time makes it near impossible to get a decent harvest of dry bush beans. I still grow a few for early fresh green beans but it's hard even to get seed for the next year. I've even resorted to propping them up with rolled up chicken wire between the rows. Pole beans are not 100% immune molding or sprouting but it takes a much longer period of wet weather to cause it and being out of range of having soil splashed on them by a hard rain the harvest is always much cleaner.  

John Weiland, yep I have grown large pole beans exactly like that, one of approximately 40,000 ways I've tried. It works great but I don't grow beans in the same place every year and as I've gotten older I've grown tired of moving those panels around and even more tired of pulling up and driving the t-posts. One of those panels on it's side with just one easily moved small post accommodates my semi-runner beans.

Alder Burns, cowpeas! wow, this was the first year I've grown them and extremely impressed with how easy and productive they are. Even the little bushy ones hold their pods up high, no molds, no foliage diseases and dry down beautiful. I especially liked the slightly vining ones. Now just got to learn how to cook them.

So back to the topic "Small-ish Scale Dry Bean Harvesting" I might change it to "small" rather than "small-ish". I define "small" scale as enough to feed two to four people all the the green and dry beans they want for at least one year.  

If you don't mind bending or stooping over and if your climate is less humid than mine bush beans are great, I did that for thirty years. If you don't mind building, tearing down and rebuilding all those trellis contraptions, large poles are even better in that they produce more per row foot, I did that for twenty years.  I guess I'm a slow learner cause I finally figured out semi-runner beans are where it's at for me. Actually I didn't know until five or so years ago there was such a thing as semi-runner beans.
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Skandi Rogers wrote:We do a very old fashioned way with peas I imagine it would work with beans to if they are bush type.

Pick the whole bush and dry it inside, a barn floor/rafters etc works If you have nice sunny weather you could dry it outside
Take all your bushes and put them on a good floor solid concrete or a tarp over a worse floor and then smack them about with a flail (two heavy sticks joined with a bit of chain or rope)
After a while pick out the remainder of the bushes and then you can sweep just an inch or so from the ground, that gets rid of most of the bits of bush and pods.
brush everything into a bucket or 3 and then take it out into the wind (or use a fan) and pour from bucket to bucket to get rid of all the little bits.

Basically it's exactly the same method as any small grain.



This is how beans and similar crops are (were?) traditionally done here in Portugal. Our usually dry hot summers make it easy to dry these crops outside, making it easier to remove the beans. Most rural homes used to have an "eira" (threshing floor in english?) for this purpose. When all the material was quite dry and crinkly, they would use the sticks to break it up and release the beans. And then use a specific type of sieve on a windy day to remove the little bits of straw.
 
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We grow over 100 pints of dry legumes (beans, peas, cowpeas) each year, this year 135 pints. Humid conditions here in Minnesota are easier to overcome with pole beans, although we do a few varieties of bush beans with extra-wide spacing (3 rows in a 4' wide bed). Black bean plants are pulled when pods start to brown and put into a greenhouse to dry down. We pluck the pods off while sitting on lawn chairs in the shade. This is the same method we use for bush yellow peas. The pods are spread on screens to get fully dry, then we use a hand mixer/egg beater to thresh in a large tub with a sheet over it to keep the beans/peas from flying all over. This method only works on legumes that have fairly small seeds and thin shells. The other varieties of bush beans mature more unevenly and we kneel to pick those, every day for a couple of weeks, or longer to stay ahead of mold. Those pods, and the daily harvests from pole beans/peas get brought in and spread on shallow round woven trays, then shelled each evening and spread on screens until fully dry. We process on a daily basis to keep reducing the volume down so each day's harvest will have room.

As for trellising, we have cattle panels that were cut into thirds, then in half with the stubs bent around the other half so that they make a hinged panel with stubs left protruding to stick into the ground. I set up these panels side by side, forming a zig zag down the length of the bed. A bit of recycled baling twine to tie each panel to its neighbor is all it takes to hold them up even with severe weather. The panels fold flat and stack easily at the end of the season and is a task that I can do myself as a 64 year old woman. We have 66 of these panels in total, enough for 220' of beds in addition to the 120' of beds devoted to bush legumes. As vegans for over 45 years we eat lots of legumes and like having diversity in the garden that carries over to the kitchen (about 10 beans, 4 peas, 1 cowpea, and 1 soy).

As for some of the threshing ideas discussed here, the snow blower probably wouldn't work here as the plants are too moist at time of harvest. We have a leaf rake to pull behind our electric tractor which we use to pick up mown mulch. I don't think the beater brush spins fast enough to do the job of threshing. But we have been using a leaf shredder, the kind with a large hopper and a string "blade". We inserted some hardware cloth below the blade and run the device on a motor controller (basically a dimmer switch made for heavy duty applications). This has worked great for threshing amaranth, less so for sorghum. Haven't tried it on beans as once we had access to a gas-powered bundle thresher, basically a stationary threshing machine. Big, noisy, and dangerous were its prime attributes. Worked for amaranth but most of the beans were split or busted by it. Gentle is important for beans. We also used to have a pedal-powered hammer mill which we used to thresh prairie plant seeds. It was too aggressive for beans as well. I think the plastic chains or rubber hammers would work better. As for the egg beater, we managed to burn up one, forgot the brand but it was light-weight and cheaply made. Got it at the Salvation Army for $1 and used it for 2 years. Next we found a heavier-made Sunbeam stand mixer which removes from its base and is all metal. It cost $7 bucks used but it's worked for at least 2 years with no problems. Joseph's "dancing with seeds" method works almost as quickly if the pods are crisp enough. Midwestern humidity is a challenge to overcome in both growing or threshing legumes, but it is possible.
 
Mark Reed
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Larisa Walk wrote:
As for trellising, we have cattle panels that were cut into thirds, then in half with the stubs bent around the other half so that they make a hinged panel with stubs left protruding to stick into the ground. I set up these panels side by side, forming a zig zag down the length of the bed. A bit of recycled baling twine to tie each panel to its neighbor is all it takes to hold them up even with severe weather. The panels fold flat and stack easily at the end of the season and is a task that I can do myself as a 64 year old woman. We have 66 of these panels in total, enough for 220' of beds in addition to the 120' of beds devoted to bush legumes. As vegans for over 45 years we eat lots of legumes and like having diversity in the garden that carries over to the kitchen (about 10 beans, 4 peas, 1 cowpea, and 1 soy).



Wow, I had an idea almost exactly like that lurking in the back of my little mind. Does it help maximize use of space too? For example I have a number of 5' x 45' beds. If I run a bunch of rows crosswise I have to build too many individual trellis pieces. If I go lengthwise I only get two rows per bed and have to get in between them to tend and harvest.  I'm thinking if I did something like the zigzag you described, I could easily tend and pick from either side and have the same or more row feet at the same time.  And the other little bonus you mentioned too, self stabilizing!
 
John Weiland
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Ben Reilly wrote:
Did you ever have problems with beans sprouting or going moldy in the pods? I've had mold problems every single time I've dried beans on the plants, some worse than others, but I could just not be timing the harvest well. Curious how they've held up being stored like that.



Tough question as I find that my beans end up with varying levels of mold in the pods depending on the harvest year....no sprouting issues to speak of.   For the most part, I'm usually pulling them from the garden after the first few frosts and also after an extended dry spell in the fall.  This will still leave some lesser-mature pods on the plants which may be subject to greater mold potential.  I make the cleaning step during the actual threshing process....just cracking a pod, looking at the contents, and making a quick decision to keep or toss what is inside.  For keeping seed, I do the same thing, but can never say for sure how free of mold spores that clean looking seed might be.  Outside of mold that occurs in the pod, we worry about build-up of Sclerotinia (white mold) which can really clobber the plants during a bad year in mid-summer from humidity and moisture.  It just ends up being a balance between time, effort, and final product, but I'm relatively happy with the returns.  As a note, the only dry bean we are maintaining now are cranberry beans.....seem to produce well here and have a great flavor.

Edited to add a question:  Much allusion here to Midwest problems in bush bean growing due to humidity.  Recollection tells me North Dakota, the drier side of the PNW, and ..... Michigan!....are big dry bean producers (bush) in the USA.  Isn't Michigan terribly humid for such production or does it dry down appreciably in late summer?
 
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Mark Reed wrote:

Larisa Walk wrote:
As for trellising, we have cattle panels that were cut into thirds, then in half with the stubs bent around the other half so that they make a hinged panel with stubs left protruding to stick into the ground. I set up these panels side by side, forming a zig zag down the length of the bed. A bit of recycled baling twine to tie each panel to its neighbor is all it takes to hold them up even with severe weather. The panels fold flat and stack easily at the end of the season and is a task that I can do myself as a 64 year old woman. We have 66 of these panels in total, enough for 220' of beds in addition to the 120' of beds devoted to bush legumes. As vegans for over 45 years we eat lots of legumes and like having diversity in the garden that carries over to the kitchen (about 10 beans, 4 peas, 1 cowpea, and 1 soy).



Wow, I had an idea almost exactly like that lurking in the back of my little mind. Does it help maximize use of space too? For example I have a number of 5' x 45' beds. If I run a bunch of rows crosswise I have to build too many individual trellis pieces. If I go lengthwise I only get two rows per bed and have to get in between them to tend and harvest.  I'm thinking if I did something like the zigzag you described, I could easily tend and pick from either side and have the same or more row feet at the same time.  And the other little bonus you mentioned too, self stabilizing!



The panel sections are about 2' wide for each "leg" of the folding panel. Six panels fit into a 20' long bed with about a 3' footprint crossways. We plant on each side of the zig zag, furrowing with a hoe. That makes for roughly a 24' doubled row in a 20' bed. If your beds are wider you can do a double wide zig zag with the same panels or don't bother making the cut in half but simply tie 2 panels to make the "hinge" point. I had tried using full size panels in our narrower beds and that makes the zig zag more "shallow" and less stable in the wind. It needs to be closer to 90 degrees to be sturdy with full leaf coverage.  In years past I tried planting other crops in the triangle gaps of the zig zags. I've abandoned that as it interferred with air flow for the beans, too much shade for the companion crop, and a bother to weed around - not worth the effort or seed.  Beans are self supporting, pole peas need a little extra support at times, either some twine or sticks inserted in the panels or they can sometimes flop over in a stiff breeze. As for height, the panels end up being about 5' tall. Any beans taller than that grow up and hang over or go sideways across the top of the panels. We have whittled down the varieties we grow to those that grow well here, including our management systems.

In our 3.5-4' wide beds, we can grow 3 rows lengthwise of bush beans, but only 2 rows of cowpeas (variety Colossus).  Our garden paths are permanent green cover so we have to keep them mowed around the bush bean patches to keep the moisture at bay. Pole beans are easier to keep dry and a joy to harvest, plus there are varieties that don't have comparable shorter siblings.
 
Larisa Walk
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John Weiland wrote:

Ben Reilly wrote:
Did you ever have problems with beans sprouting or going moldy in the pods? I've had mold problems every single time I've dried beans on the plants, some worse than others, but I could just not be timing the harvest well. Curious how they've held up being stored like that.



Tough question as I find that my beans end up with varying levels of mold in the pods depending on the harvest year....no sprouting issues to speak of.   For the most part, I'm usually pulling them from the garden after the first few frosts and also after an extended dry spell in the fall.  This will still leave some lesser-mature pods on the plants which may be subject to greater mold potential.  I make the cleaning step during the actual threshing process....just cracking a pod, looking at the contents, and making a quick decision to keep or toss what is inside.  For keeping seed, I do the same thing, but can never say for sure how free of mold spores that clean looking seed might be.  Outside of mold that occurs in the pod, we worry about build-up of Sclerotinia (white mold) which can really clobber the plants during a bad year in mid-summer from humidity and moisture.  It just ends up being a balance between time, effort, and final product, but I'm relatively happy with the returns.  As a note, the only dry bean we are maintaining now are cranberry beans.....seem to produce well here and have a great flavor.

Edited to add a question:  Much allusion here to Midwest problems in bush bean growing due to humidity.  Recollection tells me North Dakota, the drier side of the PNW, and ..... Michigan!....are big dry bean producers (bush) in the USA.  Isn't Michigan terribly humid for such production or does it dry down appreciably in late summer?



When you hand pick pods as they mature you can keep ahead of the mold issue. Some varieties only need to change the color of their pods to indicate maturity, and the plants at this stage are still quite green and leafy. I noticed this many years ago when we grew a cannellini bean that was a moldy mess with lots of sprouting in the pods. The sprouts were happening long before the pods were browning. When they started to turn yellow, the beans were mature enough to grow, so I began picking them and bringing them into our sun porch where they could dry down for several days. Yield increased by more than 25% as we weren't losing a significant portion to spoilage. We eventually switched to a white-seeded pole bean that avoids the problem entirely. If you're trying to machine harvest, then you will need to grow bush varieties and have a climate that has a dry harvest window. Not sure how they do it in Michigan. Maybe they have very wide row spacing and in-row spacing?

The 2 bush bean varieties that we hand pick pod by pod are Marfax and Reade Krobbe. Often the patches will rejuvenate in the fall rains, yielding a second harvest of immature shelly beans or even fully mature dry beans. The black beans that we pull whole plants don't have this opportunity, but they're semi runners and would be a pain to pick otherwise. When a fall frost threatens we pick over all of our beans, pole and bush, gathering in any pods with swollen "bumps" and have many meals of shelly beans.
 
Ellendra Nauriel
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:

Ellendra Nauriel wrote:I'm seeing lots of advice that starts out with "pull the whole plants and then . . . "

It's the pulling so many plants that's the hard part! My body just can't do that enough to harvest what I need.



Host a party. Invite friends with teenage kids over. Have them pull the whole plants, and then...

Hire someone to help. Have them pull the whole plants, and then...

I wonder about -- Put a dull blade on your riding lawnmower. Attach the grass catcher. Winnow the clippings.

I wonder about -- Those pull behind leaf rakes. Seems like they'd work wonders as a been thresher.

You got a sickle mower on that tractor? Sicklemow. Rake into a pile. Thresh. Winnow.

It's amazing how fast a body can build strength if you do a little bit every day.

Pods can be picked one by one.



I do have a sickle mower for the tractor. Next year I should have enough seed I can afford to start selecting for machine-harvestability.

I have an idea for a single-row bean harvester that would work with the non-selected plants, but harvest season is nearly over and my prototype still isn't ready. Basically, it has a set of toothed wheels in the front that lift the vines a few inches, then the sickle blade cuts them off. Right now, a lot of the plants grow with the pods touching the dirt. In addition to that increasing mold problems, it also makes it harder to make a clean cut.

(I think I forgot to mention, my biggest bean crop is "Beefy Resilient Grex", which has a mix of bush and pole types. I'm working on separating them out, but the bulk of them are still mixed together. The tangling caused by the pole beans makes things interesting.)

Having a party or hiring help might have to wait for a non-pandemic year.

Thank you for the tips!

 
Ellendra Nauriel
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Ben Reilly wrote:

John Weiland wrote:This will be a somewhat oblique answer.
So now the beans just stay in the feed sack in a cool, dry place until I need some for a meal.  I thresh out just enough for the meal, which usually is not so much, and leave the remainder in the pods within the bag until next time.  



Did you ever have problems with beans sprouting or going moldy in the pods? I've had mold problems every single time I've dried beans on the plants, some worse than others, but I could just not be timing the harvest well. Curious how they've held up being stored like that.



I've noticed that some beans have pods that shed water, and others soak it up like a sponge. The "soakers" are the ones most likely to rot or sprout instead of drying.

The Beefy Resilient Grex beans I'm growing started out with about 3/4 soakers and 1/4 shedders. Since the soakers tend not to be viable (because they grew mold or sprouted in the pod), they've been self-selecting for water-shedding ability. I've noticed this year's crop is more than 80% "shedders". Even after a week straight of rain, a day of sunshine was all it took for them to be crispy-dry again.

You might find it valuable to test a wide variety of beans, and select for those whose ripe pods shed water well.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Ellendra: Thanks for noticing and mentioning soakers vs shedders.

My beans are mingled in my fields with all other crops, and my irrigation system applies water in swaths 90 feet wide and 200 feet long. While the beans are drying down, I continue to water my fields because other crops need water more than the beans need dry. It also rains sometimes in the fall. Therefore, for the last decade, I have been inadvertently selecting for shedders. I remember sprouting seeds being a problem in the past, but it hasn't been for a long time. Guess that I get what I select for, even if I don't know that I'm doing the selecting.
 
Larisa Walk
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All of the bean varieties we grow are of the water shedding type. Too bad seed catalogs don't list this trait. One can only do trials to find it out. I noticed that the pods that are best at shedding water have a hard, shiney interior to the pods. Another trait that pods can have is clingy to the beans (like Cranberry pole beans) or not. The clingy pods are harder to thresh. We grow Nora Day Fall bean that has the clingy pod trait because the eating quality is so good and the bean does well in all other ways. Otherwise this is a trait that we try to avoid.
 
pollinator
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That is what has always stopped me from growing *lots* of dry beans. I've done a couple of rows of pole beans and then messed with them to manually get them out of the shell, after frost dries them on the vine so I love this bicycle thresher. Talk about accumulating functions: Using a bike would also help me to lose a little weight! I've grown buckwheat and encountered the same problem, plus the fact that buckwheat seed is really hard to separate from the chaff. I ended up using a scythe to pick up the whole plant... then gave up and let my chickens pick it all up themselves: I put the whole plant in their run/ out in the pasture. It worked, but I also lost lots of seeds and the buckwheat reseeded, which was OK, but not ideal. Lots of waste... and I hate waste.
And if I'm too lazy to modify a bike and spend the time pedaling my little buns out,  I could gain space and time by fastening the threshing drum on sawhorses and putting a sump pump motor to it with a switch... Hmmm. more possibilities...
 
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I grow pole beans in a three sisters bed, and that keeps most of the beans in easy picking range, between about waist height and head height. I've inadvertantly selected for shedders in my bean population, since I tend to let them go so I can harvest them all at once (or a few big harvests), rain or shine.

To thresh, I put what will fit in a large, old pillow case (could probably fit about 30 pounds of potatoes) and dance on it, beat it with a stick, and beat the pillow case on the ground. I don't have any beans that stick to the pods like others have mentioned, so if my variety ever had that trait, I've selected against it.

To winnow, I pour then out into as large, shallow bowl or tub and use a blow dryer to blow the chaff off while shaking the container around or mixing the beans around with my hand. It's quick. I'd guess I winnow 3ish pounds of seeds in less than 5 minutes.

With regards to losing flavor over time, I can't say. I've never grown more than I'd eat/save for seed in a year. What I can say is that the beans I grow are way better than anything I've gotten in the store, and I suspect that at least part of the reason is the age of the beans I'm getting in the store, but I can't say that that's the only or biggest reason.

I'll have to buy in new beans this year, so we'll see how a new variety compares to my old standard.  Deer managed to get in and trash my bean patch this year, and I don't have enough seed left to grow all of the beans I need this coming year. It'll be the first time I've grown beans from seeds I hadn't saved in like 7 years. It's going to weird to have something new to compare them to. I'm a little worried that the variety I have picked out won't mature fast enough to give me beans in my season, or that they won't shed the late season rain like my regular beans. And who knows what the flavor will be like. Maybe my regular variety is just especially flavorful.
 
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