Procrastinating the harvest is not an option when the fall frosts threaten. When I realized I was bringing in an overabundance of green beans, I had to come up with a plan. Growing a garden is only one aspect of this homestead deal. The other major part is figuring out what to do with it all! Here are some harvesting tips and how I preserved the harvest in the kitchen.
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Tips for Harvesting Green Beans
Harvesting green beans is fairly straightforward, but here are some important considerations.
- Harvest frequently: The more frequently you harvest, the more productivity you’ll get from your bean plants. I prefer an every-other-day green bean harvest schedule. That way, if a frost does spell an end to the garden season, and I am too busy to do a last harvest, at least I’ve made a recent harvest.
- Don’t spread disease: Never harvest beans when there is moisture, such as after a rain or in the morning when it’s dewy. That’s because pests spread fungal diseases that more easily spread with moisture, so save bean harvests for later in the day.
- Pick the right size: Ever wonder what the best size of bean is to pick? If you refer to the picture above, the large size beans are a lighter color green and the individual beans are bulging out of the pod. These pods were harvested too late and will be too tough to eat (but keep reading – don’t throw them away!).The medium size beans are just right, but you can also pick them when they’re wee little ones, especially if you know you won’t be able to harvest for several days, or if you’re harvesting before the frost.
The first thing I did when I brought the harvest in was measure out one pound of the almost six pounds that I’ve harvested in the past week, to make a simple and delicious side dish. This recipe is adapted from the cookbook Practical Paleo.
Recipe: Green Beans with Red Onion
- 1 pound fresh green beans, washed and ends trimmed
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil or butter, divided
- 1 small red onion, sliced
- salt and pepper
Steam the green beans over 1 inch of boiling water for about 8 minutes or until they are bright green.
In the meantime, saute the onions in 1 Tbsp of the oil over medium heat, until they begin turning brown and crispy. Season with salt and pepper.
When green beans are finished steaming, mix them in a bowl with the remaining 1 Tbsp of oil, season with salt and pepper, and top with the onions.
Choosing a Preservation Method
So now I’ve got something in the fridge to eat, but what do I do with the rest? Homesteaders usually have their choice between canning, freezing or dehydrating their excess produce to save for wintertime eating.
I’ve already canned some green beans, but my go-to favorite method is freezing. I like freezing or dehydrating because I think they are the quickest methods, and in the summer months I’d rather put the harvest away and get on with the gardening.
The Risk in Freezing the Harvest
So I’ve made my choice to freeze the green beans, and it’s a risky one, because in the event of a power outage, I would have a lot of work to do to save all of the things I’ve frozen! We have an outdoor rocket stove which is an efficient method of cooking using only sticks and twigs gathered from around the yard. It’s our emergency cooking source. We can use it for cooking large pots of food or even for canning.
If there was a power outage, I would make giant batches of soup with my frozen vegetables and frozen homemade soup stock. We also have a a backup power solution which can help keep our fridge/freezer cool for a few days.
These are the kinds of things that homesteaders think about. Self-reliance means that we don’t just go to the grocery store and *hope* the food is there–which, supposedly there are only three days of food on grocery store shelves–and we don’t just endure an emergency like a power outage by hoping an emergency response team comes by with water and food to save us.
Thinking ahead means that we can stay calm and help our neighbors who never thought to put away a few extra things “just in case”.
But I digress, where were we? Oh yes, green beans!!!
How to Freeze Green Beans
- Wash and trim beans
- Steam over 1 inch of boiling water for 2 minutes. I did mine in 1/2-pound increments because I freeze them in portions of that size. This process is called blanching and improves the longevity and taste of the beans.
- Quickly transfer to a bowl of ice water for 2 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the beans to a cutting board lined with a clean pastry towel (these towels are relatively lint free). Roll the beans up in the towel to absorb the excess water.
- (optional) Many folks like to put the beans on a cookie sheet and pop them in the freezer for 30 minutes so that the beans dry individually and do not stick together. Then you can store all of your freezer beans together in one bag and just pour out the quantity that you want to use at a given time. I like this because it saves space.
- Unfortunately I didn’t have room to fit a cookie sheet in my freezer this go-round, so I stored the beans in 1/2-pound batches in double-bagged ziplock freezer bags. I use a straw to suck out the excess air.
BONUS TIP: Harvest those over-mature beans
If you have some over-mature beans that are still green and haven’t started to turn brown, you can still save them even if you waited too long to harvest them. Shell the beans from the pod and steam the white beans for about 3 minutes. Add a dollop of butter or oil and salt, and you’ve got a nice side dish. Or freeze them by following the instructions above.
I wanted to experiment with this method, but I only had a handful of over-mature beans. What I learned is that this method is too time consuming for a small amount of beans. In the future I will probably just compost small quantities and save this method for when I have a larger quantity of them.
You can leave the pods on the vine to dry for seed saving (even after the frost), but don’t do this too early in the season. Leaving pods on the vine signals to the plant that it completed its mission if life: produce progeny. It will stop producing at this point.
How do you preserve your magical fruits?