Beans offer plenty of health benefits and are among the easiest crops to grow in a home garden.
The key is knowing the right time to plant and harvest them.
When to harvest beans? Beans are ready for picking as early as 50 to 65 days after planting. Around this time, they should easily snap off the stem. For shell beans, start harvesting before the seeds inside become visibly evident. Harvest when the seeds have developed if you’re after green beans.
How Do You Know When Your Beans Are Ready to Harvest?
To know when to harvest beans, you must first know what kind you are growing in your garden.
With over 400 varieties to choose from, it won’t come as a surprise to find beans in many dishes.
The two most common varieties, which many call “green beans,” are bush beans and pole beans.
As their names suggest, bush beans don’t require trellises or stakes, while pole beans do because they grow like vines.
You can harvest bush beans as early as 50 to 55 days after planting, while pole beans will take longer at around 55 to 65 days.
You will also want to ask, “Did I plant them at the right time?”
Beans like warm weather, so you should plant them roughly a week after the last spring frost in your area.
Usually, this would be around the time when soil temperatures are between 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Planting too early when the soil is still cold will delay the germination process and result in rotten seeds.
That said, it’s important that you keep the soil moist throughout the summer for the beans to thrive.
Sow seeds every two weeks to have a continuous supply come harvest time.
Tips for Harvesting Beans
In about 50 to 65 days after planting the first batch, here’s what you need to look for to know if they are ready for harvesting:
- Ready-to-harvest beans are about four to seven inches long and are as wide as a pencil.
- They should be lean and firm to the touch, but the seeds inside shouldn’t be overgrown.
- The pod must have a uniform thickness to ensure the best flavor and texture.
After harvesting the first batch, you can expect your bean plants to grow more pods throughout the season.
For pole beans, that means roughly one to two months of fresh beans.
That said, bush beans grow pods all at once, so we advise planting several batches two weeks apart for a continuous harvest.
What Happens if You Don’t Harvest Beans?
When it comes to green beans, it’s important to keep in mind that harvesting at the right time means they will be easier to cook.
Good thing, it will continue to produce new pods until the end of the growing season.
Come harvest time, you should pick them as soon as they are ready. If not, they will become tough and woody and won’t taste as good.
In fact, leaving them on the plant for even a day or two will significantly and negatively affect their overall quality.
Expect your bean plants to produce half a pound per plant for bush beans and about a pound for pole beans.
While overgrown beans won’t taste as good, that doesn’t mean all is lost.
If you wait long enough before harvesting them, you will end up with dry beans, which you can then use like any other dry beans.
You can ground them up and make them into hummus or add them to your soup, chili, and more.
How To Harvest Beans
As mentioned, there are different types of beans, so there are also varying ways to harvest them.
To make it easier for you, we’ve listed the steps below depending on what you want from your beans.
We’ve also included some storage tips to ensure your freshly harvested beans don’t go to waste.
Harvesting Green Beans
If you’re harvesting fresh green beans, here are the steps you need to take.
Step 1: Look for pods that are four to seven inches in length and are the width of a pencil.
The pods’ seeds must not be bulging since you’ll eat them without shelling.
Step 2: Pinch the pods gently to check if they are lean and compact.
Step 3: Hold the bean pod with one hand and the vine where it’s connected with your other hand.
Gently snap it off to prevent damaging or harming the vine so that it can grow more pods.
Step 4: After harvesting, avoid washing and snapping your beans if you are not going to cook them yet.
The best way to store these beans is to put them in an airtight container and keep them refrigerated.
Done this way, fresh green beans can last up to four days.
Step 5: For longer shelf life, the best thing you can do is preserve it the day it is harvested.
You can rinse the beans, pat them dry after, place them in Ziploc bags, and put them in the freezer.
Freezing green beans ensures you have enough supply for up to three months.
Harvesting Dry Beans
When it comes to harvesting dry beans, you will come across two different techniques.
The traditional way is picking the whole string and drying it under the sun. Others prefer leaving it hanging on the plant until it dries.
Step 1: Dry beans are still attached to the plant until the seed turns hard and rattles.
To harvest dry beans, you must look for a pod that’s starting to turn yellow and whose leaves are beginning to fall.
Dry beans are harvested usually around 90 to 100 days.
Step 2: To remove the dry pod from the plant, you can pull them from the stem or cut them straight from the plant.
Step 3: When storing dry beans, dry them off completely before putting them in airtight containers or glass jars.
Keep the container in a cool and dark area.
To ensure your dry beans stay dry, put a piece of folded paper towel inside the container to absorb excess moisture.
Properly stored dry beans can last up to a year more.
That said, keep in mind that the longer they stay in storage, the more they lose their nutrients.
Harvesting Shell Beans
Shell beans are different from green beans (snap beans) in that you intend to eat only the beans inside.
The reason for this is that they usually have tougher pods that aren’t good for eating.
Among the most popular beans for shelling are fava beans, lima beans, black beans, and black-eyed peas.
If you’ve grown any of these varieties, know that they are harvested later than green beans.
More often than not, they are ready for harvest at around 66 to 75 days.
Step 1: To harvest beans for shelling, you need to look for firm beans and bulging seeds in a pod.
Step 2: Look for pods where the seeds are swollen but still tender, and then gently hold and pull them from their vine.
Step 3: Next, open the pod on the seam, or twist it to open and remove the seeds inside using your thumb.
Step 4: Grab a plastic or paper bag and put in your freshly harvested shell beans. Store them in the freezer for up to three months.
Should You Wash Your Beans After Harvesting?
It’s okay to store freshly harvested beans without washing them.
As with any crop, washing them right after harvesting and before storing will make them soggy and rot faster.
One trick to prolong its shelf life is to keep the stem on the pod. If you do it this way, they will last a few days until you are ready to use them.
You will want to store unwashed and uncut beans in an airtight container and refrigerate them.
If you’re not going to use them for more than five days, you will be better off keeping them in the freezer instead.
Make sure you rinse and drain the beans before storing them in the freezer.
Some prefer stacking them in a can or mason jar for an even longer shelf life.
Can You Eat Beans Immediately After Harvesting?
The best way to enjoy the mildly sweet flavor and crisp texture of green beans are to eat them immediately after harvesting.
Mishandling and incorrectly storing them for too long will cause them to lose their freshness and texture.
When cooking, you can keep them crisp and sweet by not cutting them into tiny pieces.
Beans not only add flavor and color to a dish but also incorporate some much-needed vitamins and nutrients.
They are a good source of protein and are believed to stabilize glucose levels in the body.
Moreover, they are also a good source of fiber, so you can feel fuller for longer and promote better digestive health.
You can eat freshly harvested beans raw, while others prefer to shell them, can them, or dry them.
If it’s up to us, these are more than enough reasons to grow them in our home garden.