We’ve had several nights of light frost already and my beans plants have all turned brown and leaves have dropped. The french horticulture beans have had it double bad with the grasshopper plague as well. All the leaves have been completely or mostly eaten and now frost damaged, so I felt it was time to harvest what I could before all the beans got moldy or eaten by mice. Not really knowing what makes a french horticulture bean ready to pick, I picked every pod with beans inside regardless of the color.
I read somewhere that these beans are meant for drying and I’ve done that with some decorative beans I grew last year, so that became my plan. I’m going to need a place to dry them and some kind of rack to lay them out on. So it’s off to the shop I go.
I gathered the last of the old pea nets for scrap wood and a roll of plastic mesh that was originally destined to line a bat house and set to work building four drying trays. First things first, the wood needed cleaning up. The chicken wire needed removing and all the staples needed plucked. You can’t reuse chicken wire without a steady stream of cussing so I balled it up to go to the transfer station.
Wear gloves if you ever do this; the wire and the old staples and do a good job of poking and scratching and creating more cussing.
There were six boards each 6 feet long. A bit of simple yet frustrating math and some workbench chicken scratch later, I figured I could make four trays each 34″ x 15″ (roughly). I was right.
Even though the wood was wet from sitting out in the rain all year, I used glue and staples to hold the frames together. I wasn’t shy with the staples. The plastic mesh was conveniently 36″ wide (I did check that before deciding on the overall size of the trays, honest). I used the pneumatic stapler to attach the mesh, but found that the staple drove in the soft wet wood too far and sometimes it would just break the plastic. So I did a few rounds using the stapler from the office, which worked until I ran out of staples.
I had to revert to using the pneumatic and simply tilted the gun so the staples would’t go in so deep. I also remembered to switch to the smaller staples. Quick and dirty, this job is.
When I finally was able to lay out the beans, I realized I would need more than four trays. Insert cussing here. I also noticed the different colors on the bean pods; green with pink splotches and creamy white with pink splotches. Just for fun I opened one of each to find different colored beans as well. The white pods held white beans with pink marks and the green pods held, well, green beans. I recalled seeing pictures of french horticulture beans all dried up and they were all creamy with pink marks. I used my ultra sonic scientific deducing abilities to determine that the green pods with pink splotches were, in fact, not quite ready to dry. Oh well, too late now; we’ll just have to eat them instead. (more on that soon)
So I separated them and ended up using only two of the trays I built. The rest I needed to shell. Awesome, I needed to spend some time on my butt anyway. I made a bit of a mess on the deck and in the process I found some white with pink splotches beans. I’ll set those aside to dry in the house.
Geoff and I will eat the green beans over the next few days. It’s a huge learning curve to eat what you have available. I would love to try to can them, but I don’t have a pressure cooker yet. I left the two trays of creamy white with pink splotches in the greenhouse to dry; it’s still warm, dry and airy in there. I might need to bring them indoors soon though.