This time of year, most of us allotment growers have an abundance of runner beans that are now passed their best to be eaten as whole beans, but are we missing a trick when it comes to the swollen beans inside?
Now I know some of you may leave the pods on the plant to dry for saving seed for next years growing season, but then throw the rest of the pods out with the compost! I realised this error last year and have since made a note to collect all of the unwanted, unloved remaining pods that remain on the bean plants. (In the case of allotment neighbours’ unwanted beans, permission is always acquired before I harvest the beans in question)!
The idea is to harvest and store the beans inside, but they must be dry. This can either be done by leaving the pods on the plant to dry naturally, or removing the ripe beans and drying them for a couple of weeks until the shells are hardened. Once completely dried, they can be frozen for a couple of hours to kill any bacteria or bugs that may be lurking on there, then stored in airtight containers. If the beans are quite fresh, you can simply pod them, wash them and then place in the freezer until needed. They store brilliantly this way. I spent a fantastic afternoon with my young neighbours who were more than willing to help me shell the abundance of beans that I had.
The beans can then be added to casseroles, soups and stews, or in my case used with the West Indian Rice and Peas recipe! They also look fabulous added to clear storage jars within your kitchen. Any type of beans such as French, Runner, Borlotti can be treated in the same way.
Lets see how much hidden treasure you can acquire!