How to Harvest and Store Snap Beans

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Harvest snap beans (also known as green or string beans) before the seeds swell in the pods when they are no more than the diameter of a pencil. Smaller beans can be served as tender, baby snap beans.

snap bean harvest basket

When to harvest snap beans

  • Start your snap bean harvest about 2 to 3 weeks after the plants begin to bloom and continue to pick almost daily. Snap beans take about 50 to 60 days from sowing to reach harvest.
  • At a minimum, harvest pole beans every 2 days and bush beans at least once a week. Pole-type beans generally bear over a longer period than bush types.
  • When you quit picking and allow seeds in the pods to develop and mature, the plant will stop blossoming and producing pods; its life cycle will be complete.
  • Your bean harvest will end when temperatures drop below 40°F (4°C); then pods will become opaque and develop rust-colored spots.

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How to harvest snap beans

  • Harvest beans by holding the stem with one hand and pulling pods with the other. Don’t jerk or yank beans from the plant; you will only break vines and branches and injure the plant.
  • By picking often, you encourage more blossoms and more beans. Each plant should produce two or three flushes of pods.
Blanching green beans
Blanching and freezing is an easy way to preserve a larger snap bean harvest.

How to store snap beans

  • Store snap beans in a cool, moist place, 40°-50°F and 95 percent relative humidity. You can keep snap beans in the crisper section of the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag; this will keep the beans from drying. (You can purchase perforated plastic bags or make your own by punching 20 holes in a medium-size bag; use a hole punch or sharp object.)
  • Snap beans will keep for 8 to 12 days in a cool, moist place.
  • Do not refrigerate snap beans at less than 40°F; beans are easily injured by cold developing opaque discoloration, rusty spots, and pitting.
  • Blanching and freezing is an easy way to preserve a larger snap bean harvest. Blanch whole beans in boiling water for 1 minute and then quickly cool them in ice water and freeze them. This process will brighten and fix the color while preserving the crisp texture of the pods.

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Green beans, shell beans, dry beans — harvest and storage

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

Snap beans or green beans harvest

Snap green beans are ready for harvest when they are about the size of a 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 for 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 for 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 split 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.

Kitchen tips: How to Quick Cook and Serve Snap Beans

Growing tips: How to Grow Green or Snap Beans

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More harvest tips:

Learn when and how to harvest your favorite vegetables for the best flavor and texture. Get storage tips for each crop. Click on the vegetable you are growing below.

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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