Snap Beans: Harvest and Storage

Bean Harvest1

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.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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