The vast majority of people think of fruits and vegetables when they think about growing their own food. This is what I used to think too. Never in a million years did I ever see myself growing my own drying beans. It just appeared to be a crop that a farm and machine could grow and harvest far more efficiently than I ever could.
Last year, I decided to try my hand at growing my own drying beans. If I’m completely honest, I expected very little reward for high efforts. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was quite the contrary. Growing my own drying beans has been so rewarding, so I’d like to try and convince you to try it too.
One of the best things about growing drying beans is storage. By their nature, once fully dry, they will store well for over a year. When growing other fruits and vegetables, they often require much more energy and effort to preserve them. Blanching and freezing, canning, turning into jam etc. These all require the use of gas and electricity to store your produce should you want to enjoy it during the winter. With dried beans, they look after themselves.
This also makes them an ideal crop to grow for those who may live in flats in cities who have an allotment, where food storage space may be short.
If I’m completely honest, I was dreading the task of podding my dried beans. In reality, I actually found it quite a therapeutic activity. It also takes zero brain power so you can do it whilst talking, listening to music/a podcast or watching TV. Honestly, the time will go much quicker than you think.
Once you’ve got the plant in the ground and climbing the right direction up its support, you can just let it do its thing until harvest time. This is something I really appreciated during the summer, when the rest of the plot was keeping me extremely busy.
One time harvest
The height of summer and into early autumn is the busiest time of year in the garden. I find that I can easily spend most of my ‘gardening time’ just harvesting and processing my produce. Berries, tomatoes and green beans are all particularly time consuming to harvest. Drying beans, however, can be harvested once everything else is slowing down in the garden. Just let them do their thing, come back to them in the autumn and you’ll have a wonderful harvest.
Dwarf beans may not be very space efficient, but climbing beans certainly are. By growing climbing varieties of drying beans, you really can make the most of your growing space. For one variety I grew this year, I yielded around 1kg of dried beans from just 9 plants.
You can even plant them in places you may struggle to get to during the main growing season, such as between trailing squash plants. I planted my drying beans between my squashes, and by the time they were ready to harvest, my squash plants had died back so I could gain easy access.
We all know that eating too much meat is bad for the planet. Try and name me a more sustainable source of protein than homegrown beans.
Like everything else you buy in the shops, when you grow your own there are so many varieties to choose from. Look for heritage varieties from the likes of Real Seeds or The Heritage Seed Library.
It’s just pretty darn cool. Growing drying beans really does feel like the next step in the journey to self-sufficiency. Tell anyone that you grow your own dried beans and I bet they’d be impressed.