Beans: Harvest and Storage

Bean HarvestYour bean harvest time will depend on what you plan to do with the beans after picking.

Snap beans or green beans harvest: Green beans are ready for harvest when they are about the size of pencil. The seeds inside will be just visible–they’ll look like small bumps. Depending on the variety you have planted, snap beans will be ready for picking 50 to 65 days after planting. For a big harvest, pick green beans every day or at least every couple of days. If you allow beans to mature, the plant will stop producing new beans. So pick regularly for an extended harvest. Pinch of cut off beans; be careful not to pull beans or you may uproot the whole plant. Aging pods will turn yellow and leathery; streaked pods are mealy inside.

Green beans storage: If you can’t keep up with the snap bean harvest at the table, you can freeze or pickle green beans. To freeze green beans, wash the beans and snap off the ends. Cut the beans into 1 inch pieces or slice lengthwise. Blanch the beans for 2 to 3 minutes. Chill. Pack in freezer bags. (To blanch beans, add 1½ to 2 inches of water to the kettle and heat to boiling. Place the colander with beans into the kettle and heat through 2 to 3 minutes.)

Shell beans harvest: Beans for shelling are picked when the seeds reach full size but are still tender. Pick shell beans when the pods are still green and the swollen seeds are visible from the outside. Shell beans are usually ready for harvest 66 to 75 days after planting. Like snap beans, keep picking shell beans and the plant will keep producing; don’t allow the pods to yellow.

Shell beans storage: Shelled beans can be steamed, baked, and boiled for fresh eating. Shell beans also can be frozen: wash the beans and shell them. Blanch shelled beans for 2 to 3 minutes, depending on the size of the bean. Chill. Pack in freezer bags. (To blanch beans, add 1½ to 2 inches of water to the kettle and heat to boiling. Place the colander with beans into the kettle and heat through 2 to 3 minutes.)

Dry beans harvest: Dry beans stay on the plant until the seeds are hard and rattle in the pods. The alternative is to cut the plants when pods turn yellow and hang the plants in a warm dry place until the pods become brittle and the seeds rattle in the pods. It’s best to harvest dry beans before the pods spilt open and the beans spill out. Dry beans are ready for harvest 90 to 100 days after planting. If the weather forecast calls for rain or frost, pull up the bean plants and dry them indoors. (Pick the pods off of pole beans which are too big to pull up whole. Dry pods on screens or racks indoors.)

Dry bean storage: Store dry beans in airtight jars. Be sure the beans are dry before storing them. To absorb moisture left in beans during storage, place a tablespoon of powdered milk in a folded paper towel inside each jar of dried beans.



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  1. This is good info, but I’m trying to find the average yield per plant- all it ever says is heavy, good, etc- but is that 5 beans or 100 beans?

  2. For information on yield by vegetable, go to the Topics Index on the front page of this site, left side, click on Topics and then go to Yield–click on Yield for articles on Crop Yields. Bean yields can vary by cultivar. A 10-foot row of snap beans may yield as many as 12 pounds of beans; a 10-foot row of pole beans may yield as many as 15 pounds.

  3. I have washed and cut (and shelled) several kinds of green beans — both pole beans and bush beans. Some that I picked are still tender (and unshelled); some are still green, but the peel became more brittle, so I shelled; and some have totally turned yellow or speckled (dry), and are shelled. Is it OK to freeze all three of these kinds together, with the standard “blanch for 3 minutes, dunk in ice water for 3 more minutes, drain thoroughly, and put into freezer bags” instructions? Thanks!

    • You should separate your green beans for freezing from your dried beans for storing. As well, I would suggest you separate the varieties and label and store them separately. If you are storing or freezing all dried beans, allow them to dry completely before blanching and storing. The U.S. Dry Beans Council is a good source of information:

      Uncooked, dry beans should be stored in tightly sealed containers–like glass jars– and kept in a cool, dry area. While storage time does not affect nutrient value, beans may require longer cook times as they age.

      Cooked beans, if refrigerated, will keep for up to five days in a covered container. After cooking, place leftover beans in tightly covered containers to allow for proper cooling and storage. Cooked beans may also be frozen for later use.
      You can cook a huge pot of beans and later freeze them in smaller quantities. Made sure you label them with the date and type of bean to avoid having unlabelled packets in the freezer compartment. Frozen beans will keep for up to 3 months, while cooked and refrigerated beans will keep for up to 5 days. Beans take very well to being frozen, and are easy to defrost – simply place a bag into hot water for five minutes or use the microwave oven: by following these guidelines, you’ll always have beans ready to serve.

  4. Thinking of best way to package the beans for sale. Paper bags or nylon bags? Can it just be packed in air tight packs without preservative? Or is there any natural form of preservative one can add to it?

    • Place the seed in a paper envelope and store it in a cool place; a garage, basement, or in the refrigerator if there is room. Be sure to label the envelope so that you remember which seed you saved.

    • Sounds like a tunneling insect leaving frass behind. If these are fresh beans, store them in a refrigerated place–or freeze them. If they are dry beans, be sure to clean the beans after they are thoroughly dried before storing them in airtight glass jars.

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