Growing Beans for Drying

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Dried beans

Fans of pole beans will know that there's one golden rule when it comes to their cultivation: keep on picking the pods if you want more to follow! The reason for this oft-quoted piece of advice is that if pods are left to mature to produce viable seed the plant will think it has done its job and will cease to form any new pods. How frustrating, then, to return from a summer holiday only to discover a host of over-ripe pods and the death knell for your ambitions of pods aplenty. This has happened to me on more than one occasion.

So for those of you who only have to turn your back for a few days to find stubbornly despondent vines, this one's for you (although it might also be worthwhile reading our article Growing Better Beans). Beans grown for drying can be planted and pretty much forgotten (save for the usual watering and weeding of course!). All of the beans are then harvested in one go right at the end of the growing season when a satisfying round of shelling, drying and canning ensues. Use the beans in winter stews or resurrected for a reminder of summer's delicious glory.

Planting beans direct in the ground

What to grow

Climbing and pole beans and the pea bean are all suitable for growing for drying; you can even enjoy a limited harvest of fresh pods before leaving the remainder to mature and swell. My favorites for sheer good looks are the borlotti beans – look out for Italian-named varieties such as ‘Lingua di Fuoco' (Fire tongue) and ‘Centofiamme' (100 Flames). Another tried-and-tested variety for drying is runner bean ‘Czar' whose fat, creamy beans make excellent butter beans. Explore the seed catalogs, most of which will have a small selection of beans specifically recommended for the dry treatment.

Growing the beans

The secret with growing beans for drying is to make an early start as they require a long season. Sow beans under cover from mid-spring and outdoors into pre-warmed soil from late spring. You don't want to sow too early and threaten your plants with a late frost but, equally, don't leave it too late. Soil can be warmed up in advance by placing row covers over the ground a few weeks before planting out or sowing, or use layers of garden fleece to help recently planted beans find their feet.

Bean seedlings

I start my beans off in the greenhouse by sowing two seeds to a 7cm (3in) pot and thinning to leave the sturdiest seedling in each pot. If your seed is fresh and you have time you can usually get away with sowing one per pot, as most seeds usually germinate. Plant out the young plants once any danger of frost has passed. Seed sown directly outdoors should be sown against their supports.

Supports should always be in place before planting out and take the form of bamboo canes or similar set 30cm (12in) apart in a double row or as a wigwam of canes tied in together at the top. Wigwams are a good choice for windy sites as the wind tends to whistle round the structure rather than tearing it down. If you have the space and your garden is sheltered enough, your plants will get more room when grown against a double row of canes tied at the top using a horizontal cane.

Bean supports

Help newly planted or emerging seedlings find their feet by leaning them against their pole. It won't be long before they get a grip and race skywards. Keep beans watered over the summer and hoik out any weed you can get to.

Picking your beans

By all means pick a few pods fresh but leave plants well alone in good time to ensure they have a few months to mature and dry by fall. You will know the pods are making good progress when they swell. Soon after, the pods will turn a pale straw color as they start to dry out towards the end of summer or early fall.

You can pick dried-out pods as they appear, taking them inside to a dry place to continue drying. Easier is to lift out the plants in one go (leave the roots in the ground as they are a valuable source of nitrogen). The timing for this depends on your local climate. Warm, dry climates will see pods successfully drying out on the plant – the beans then just have to be shelled. In damper temperate climates the fate of your beans lies in what sort of season you're having. If the temperature is cooling off rapidly and it's wet, bring the vines indoors in good time and hang them up somewhere warm and dry to finish drying (a greenhouse is perfect). You don't want the beans to get frosted, so at the very latest bring them in before any chance of frost.

Dried bean pods

Once pods are dry (the beans should rattle in the pods) they can be shelled into trays and placed in a warm place to continue drying. The beans should ultimately be light and hollow-sounding when tapped, at which point they can be decanted into glass jars for storage in a cool, dark place. Mason jars are perfect for this purpose.

Eating the beans

Dried beans contain high amounts of lectin, a natural chemical which can cause stomach upsets. Don't let this put you off – prepare your dried beans before cooking and they will be divine, not beastly! Soak the beans overnight or for at least eight hours then place into cool water. Bring the water up to a vigorous boil and boil like this for ten minute before turning down the heat and simmering till soft.

Home-dried beans take much less cooking time than shop-bought beans and as a result they taste all the better for it. Use the beans in stews, casseroles, soups, tagines and other fulsome dishes. When it's cold outside and you're hankering after a taste of summer, your beans will be there to step in like protein-packed heroes.

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Show Comments


"What is the bean shown in the top photo. I have a similar one given to me by a friend but I have no idea what it is,"
James on Saturday 4 May 2013
"Hi James. I believe this is a type of Borlotti bean - there are several different varieties available. They're real beauties to grow - very ornamental."
Benedict Vanheems on Saturday 4 May 2013
"I grow bush beans for dry shelling, since I have a short growing season. I've had good luck with YinYang, and this year I'm going to grow Pinquitos, an old favorite from California."
GayLee on Saturday 4 May 2013
"Hi Benedict Thank you. My beans are a climbing Borlotti type. Not knowing any better, I have been picking them to eat when the green pods swell but before they color up. Delicious. I freeze them without blanching - free flow frozen beans. They still taste pretty good. I shall try drying some next year. "
James on Sunday 5 May 2013
"After all is done and planted, wish I had read this much earlier. You betcha we will be mixing up our beans in 2014! "
Correen on Thursday 16 May 2013
"So, you do keep watering the beans until they turn yellow? I wondered if they would dry faster if I stopped watering. Yours is the first article to actually tell me how to dry the beans. I want to plant them next year after canning 76 pints of them. I'm tired of picking now. :)"
Ellie on Monday 12 August 2013
"Hi Ellie. I would keep watering the plants (at the base so as not to wet any of the pods) as they turn yellow. This is because they may still be maturing within the pods, so you want to ensure unhindered growth. Good luck with your dried beans - enjoy them!"
Benedict Vanheems on Thursday 15 August 2013
"What is the best way to harvest and store beans for planting the following year."
Ted Lacey on Tuesday 26 November 2013
"Hi Ted, beans for planting the following year are harvested and dried in exactly the same way as above. If you are storing them for planting I'd suggest popping them into paper envelopes (this will allow the seeds to breathe) and keeping them in a cool, dark place that is free from frost and extreme temperature fluctuations. They will be fine for sowing next year and may well keep until the year after also."
Benedict Vanheems on Tuesday 26 November 2013
"This year our dried Borlotti beans were crawling with bugs when we went to plant them. How did they get bugs and how do you get rid of them. "
Shelley on Monday 21 September 2015
"Hi Shelley. Firstly an apology for the late reply. Your Borlotti beans may have got bugs from a number of ways. Do you know what type of bug they got? It is reasonably likely it was some type of greenfly/aphid. These insects are very common. They can sap the plant's sap, weakening them and making them more prone to other problems. You can control them by spraying plants with a soapy water mixture. Better still, encourage predatory insects into your garden by planting plenty of flowering plants all around your productive garden - things that attract lacewings, ladybirds/lady bugs etc. Gardening is all about achieving a balance in the garden, so nature takes care of any pests. It may be worth checking out our Big Bug Hunt website, which has a lot of description for different bugs, plus advice on controlling them: "
Ben Vanheems on Monday 12 October 2015
"Actually, there were no bugs to see on the plants while the plants were growing. We made soups and ate the beans seeing no bugs. We dried some beans to plant the next year. The following year these dried beans were crawling with little black beetle like bugs that had hatched out of the beans. There were holes in the beans. Since they were our only beans we planted them anyways. They grew fine. No sign of bugs or disease while they grew. We dried some beans and now they are hatching bugs. How do we get rid of these bugs for good without killing our line of Borlotti beans (they were brought from Italy 60 years ago) ."
Shelley on Monday 12 October 2015
"Hi, Unfortunately I have just come across this post so I may be too late to save my crop...I dried my borlotti beans a few days and put them into Kilner jars and have just returned from a few weeks away to find the colour of the beans have changed to a muddy colour and are a lttle soft, I know now that they weren't sufficiently dried out but can I save them at this point by re-drying in a low oven or will they be harmful to eat ?"
Nan on Tuesday 13 October 2015
"Hi Shelley. It sounds like the beetles are surviving from one crop to the next. It sounds like you might have bean weevils. To get rid of them you could heat the beans to around 135 Farenheit for three to four hours, but that could risk damaging the seeds - but perhaps worth trying with some of your seeds at least. There is lots of advice about dealing with bean weevils online, for example:"
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 13 October 2015
"Hi Nan. The truthful answer is I'm not 100% sure. My gut feeling would be you are okay to dry them out (completely dry them out) as suggested and then store. You'd then need to rehydrate and cook them in the normal way. But there is a danger that they may have gone bad when they became soft and muddy coloured, so they may well be inedible. Sorry I can't be more concrete with my answer!"
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 13 October 2015
"Thanks anyway Ben, I will try re-drying them and see the result and make a decision then."
Nan on Tuesday 13 October 2015
"Could you put these beans into a dehydrator in the final stage of drying to speed up the process? If I can, could I still use them to plant for next year?"
Hannah on Monday 30 November 2015
"Hi Hannah. You could put them in a dehydrator. If you wanted to use them to plant next year, however, I'd set them at the lowest possible temperature on your dehydrator, so you don't inadvertently kill the seed off. To stay safe my inclination would be to keep the setting below about 35C / 95F."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 30 November 2015
"Hi everyone my names Julie and I live in Somerset. I have only just found this site as I want to try growing haricot beans and wondered if I should dry them the same way as seed saving which I have found you do. The reason for this post and I know it's maybe far to late is I would put the dried beans (any type) into saver bags or kilner jars and freeze them for a week or two, I thought that if it works for long time storing then it should work for seed saving, just put them into the refrigerator to de-frost and leave until you sow them. Hope this helps someone."
Julie Hale on Saturday 23 January 2016
"Hi Julie. Many thanks for sharing this. Have you found that the seeds germinate successfully after freezing? It's sounds like a great technique. "
Ben Vanheems on Monday 25 January 2016
"Hi Ben. Yes I have. I think it's the slow defrost in the refrigerator that's does it I also do this with beans flour and rice that I use for cooking because if you keep these things the eggs that are already in the packets start to hatch into little weevil like critters that's why flour etc have a use by date. I keep a lot of my seeds in the door of my refrigerator that stops them germinating until needed. Try freezing the seeds after you have collected them they only need a week or two to kill the eggs. Hopefully this works for you. "
Julie Hale on Monday 25 January 2016
"This is genius Julie - I'll give it a go!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 25 January 2016
"Thanks so much for this Article, very useful. I was wondering how you can tell if the beans in a bean pod have matured enough to be replanted to grow more bean plants? and does the pod continue to mature after picked? Is there a process you need to go through in order to replant beans from a bean pod?"
Alexander on Thursday 3 March 2016
"Hi Alexander. You must leave the bean pods on the plant until they go dry usually a yellow colour but the best test is that they look and feel papery. Just let them hang there until the end of the plants life I normally pick the fattest and longest pods (more beans hopefully) and tie a piece of string or something so I know which pods I want to keep then when your ready to pull the plant up just snap off the pods selected or you could just leave the fattest ones until you finish picking but the main point is don't take them off the plant before their dry because if their are still green and you pick them they will not mature anymore. As for storing them you are meant to store in a paper bag but how many of us get our groceries in brown bags anymore so I put mine in a small jar in the fridge, freezer or just tuck them away in a drawer Just remember after you have shelled the pods to leave them to dry somewhere I usually leave them on my kitchen window ledge that's most important otherwise they will go mouldy, then just put them in a dark place. And remember to give them a couple of days in the freezer after they have dried to get rid of any eggs laid in the beans but that part can be skipped because truthfully I have not had many beans with little critters in them. Hope that answers your questions. This is the way I do them but I'm not an expert. Best regards Julie "
Julie Hale on Friday 4 March 2016
"Hi Julie. Many thanks indeed for the excellent advice there - very helpful indeed."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 7 March 2016
"Thanks a lot Julie! that was really helpful. I have another question though. I once bought some beans from a local store which i think grows the beans themselves and because they were so good i took out the beans and planted 7 of them in a pot and one took and began to grow. How did this happen if they need to mature on the vine?"
Alexander on Monday 7 March 2016
"Hi Alexander what sort of beans are you talking about where they runner beans? Did you allow the green beans to dry out first or are you talking about green eating beans? If they were a normal green runner for eating then I'm afraid I haven't got a clue I would have thought the beans were too small because they were immature and taken of the plant before getting bigger and drying. Sorry as I said I'm just a non professional small garden plot gardener. "
Julie Hale on Monday 7 March 2016
"I am growing Borltotti beans for the first time. They are growing up a wigwam. There is a good crop but I am concerned that the beans are mostly shaded by the luxuriant growth of foliage. Will this prevent or delay the pods maturing? Should I prune off some of this foliage to expose the beans to sunlight? When they are ready, I plan to dry and store the beans."
Glynis on Sunday 14 August 2016
"Hi Glynis I don't grow any of my beans up a wigwam but I brought a frame from one of the advertisers in a gardening book and it works a treat but it does take up a fair bit of room, even so my beans rampage all over even trying to take over the top of the frame so I think it's just the nature of any sort of beans to have an abundance of leaves. Mine are partly shaded from the sun especially mid afternoon and I have never found that it affects them and they don't have trouble growing even with the amount of leaves they produce. I usually wait until they get to the top then snip the stem off I know they won't grow upwards anymore but this way they will not grow downwards looking for somewhere to latch onto and that help to stop them shading the bottom and middle of the plant, I think the same would apply to your wigwam, it's just a matter of stopping them growing too tall. I have not heard of anyone cutting leaves off, there not like tomato's they do not need the sun directly on them to mature. I hope this long winded explanation helps. Julie "
Julie Hale on Sunday 14 August 2016
"Thanks, Julie. That's really helpful. I'll snip off the tops and then stop worrying about them."
Glynis on Sunday 14 August 2016
"Lectin, not lecithin, is the substance raw dried beans contain and why they need to be cooked. I think perhaps your spell checker steered you wrong. Thanks for the article."
Russell on Monday 2 January 2017
"Hi Russell. You're right - this should say 'lectin' and not 'lecithin'. Many thanks indeed for pointing this out."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 3 January 2017
"I have so many giant pods. Went off camping... Wondering if most varieties of pole bean are okay as dried??"
Nora Kelleher on Saturday 2 September 2017
" Yes, most varieties of pole bean could be dried like this. Some are better tasting dried than others, but it's fine to dry them."
Ben Vanheems on Sunday 3 September 2017
"Hi, this is a really helpful site! I've got kidney beans that are still in the green pod - can I take the beans out and cook them as they are or do they have to be dried first? thanks Claire"
Claire C on Thursday 5 October 2017
"Hi Claire. The beans do need to dry out first before they can be eaten. You will then need to soak the beans in water then boil for at least ten minutes - raw kidney beans are in fact poisonous!"
Ben Vanheems on Friday 6 October 2017
"Many thanks, Ben....that'll save me poisoning anyone!C"
Claire C on Friday 6 October 2017
"Thanks Ben for the awesome article. 4.5 years and it lives on! Just wanted to share and also ask a question. I grow several varieties of pole bean exclusively for dry beans. The best dried bean I have ever tasted I found by mistake. It is called "Garden of Eden". One year I had so many beans growing that I couldn't keep up with them so this one I just let it go and figured if they eventually plumped up I would dry them. Well they filled out nicely and turned out to be the best dried bean for me anyway. The reason I happened upon your article is because I live in Maine and often run out of time to vine dry due to frost. I am trying to find info on the temp and time needed to use a dehydrator to finish drying beans. I heard that it can be done. Any guidance would be appreciated. Thanks."
Ron Albert on Wednesday 11 October 2017
"Hi Ron. Thanks for the kind comment - it's a very useful article I hope. Dried beans are great because they're such an easy way to help fill the pantry. I have used a dehydrator in the past for making fruit leathers etc, and drying fresh produce to take hiking for meals. I use an Excalibur, which is a good piece of kit with several trays that mean you can pack quite a lot in to dry more efficiently. Timings vary, but on a low temperature (to preserve the nutrients) the beans would, I imagine, be dry after about 24 hours. The best thing is to be guided by your previous experience. Once they're rattly and significantly lighter, you'll know they're ready to store."
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 11 October 2017
"I am growing purple hyacinth beans for decorative purposes. I was originally given some dried pods with the seeds in them to start my own vines, so I figure the person either let them dry on the vine or brought them in at some stage and let them finish drying. I am afraid to bring them in too soon in case the seeds aren't fully developed. When should I harvest the pods? Thank y ou."
Nancy Spies on Thursday 22 August 2019
"I would wait until the pods have fully dried out, or have at least gone brown/straw-coloured. If it's very wet you can finish drying them out under cover. So let them stay on the vine for as long as possible so that the seeds become genuinely viable."
Ben Vanheems on Friday 30 August 2019
"I planted little black and white beans. They remind me of whales. Anyway, do you know the best way to cook them? I've never grown them before or kept dried beans for eating. I've kept regular green bean seeds for planting the next year but never shelling beans. I don't want to ruin them for cooking them wrong and having them taste terrible. Thanks."
Ruth Z on Saturday 31 August 2019
"Could these beans be 'Yin Yang' beans? These beans are great for drying and you simply have to follow the preparation advice given above before eating them: Soak the beans for at least eight hours then place into cool water. Bring the water up to a vigorous boil and boil like this for ten minute before turning down the heat and simmering till soft."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 2 September 2019
"I had my purple pole beans picked and drying in their pods on the patio, and the darn frost got them last night! The pods are all soft and mushy so I shucked them all today and have them drying on my kitchen table on racks. Most of the pods were still purple when I shucked them. Because the frost nipped their beautiful leathery skins, are they still good to eat or keep for seed? Thanks, Angela"
Angela on Saturday 5 October 2019
"Hi Angela. You may be okay, as the beans will have been somewhat protected from the frost by the pods, which will have acted to insulate them from the cold. If the beans are still firm, then I think you've got away with it and you'll be good to continue drying them. But please accept my caveat that they may have been damaged so may not germinate in spring. Though I strongly suspect you will have got away with it, unless it was a really hard frost."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 7 October 2019
"HI, I was slow in picking and I let some Kentucky Wonder pole beans develop in white bean seeds. Can I still eat these in some way?"
John Morrison on Friday 3 April 2020
"Hi John. The Kentucky Wonder is also a good shelling bean, so you can simply remove the case and cook the beans. "
Ben Vanheems on Friday 3 April 2020
"Great article!!! I'm wondering where you purchased your Czar runner bean seeds. Can't find them anywhere in the US and with the Covid mess, none are being shipped from overseas. : ( Thanks!"
Carin on Tuesday 7 July 2020
"I know this is a popular variety in the UK, but am unsure whether (or where) you'd be able to buy it in the US. Have you considered other varieties for drying? Barbara Pleasant has some ideas in her article 'Colorful beans for fresh shelling and storing', which you can search for in the search field at the top of this webpage."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 7 July 2020
"Benedict - Hi. In the first photo, under the heading of "Growing Beans for Drying", there is a light/medium-brown colored bean with mottled spots, next to the darker red beans. Are these Pinto beans, or some other type? I recently discovered a plastic bag full of these beans in my pantry, with no label. Thanks for any assistance. Jim"
Jim Caffrey on Sunday 18 October 2020
"Hi Jim. Yes, indeed - those are pinto beans. "
Ben Vanheems on Monday 19 October 2020
"I know this is an older post now, but figured I'd take a chance as the info here was really helpful. How would you go about increasing production of pods if you can pull pods until the end of the season? I've tried growing beans for dry storage and sometimes get as little 3 pods from a plant. At that rate, I would have to grow far to many plants to get any form of measurable return for storage..."
Paul on Thursday 6 January 2022
"Hi Benedict, I am not sure what to do with my soy beans, as I can not read about them in this post. I know what to do with my other beans, as you have explained beautifully. Thank you for that. Do you know whether I can keep the same approach to soy beans? I only planted them to grow more beans as use for seeds first. Any tip is welcome : ) Thanks in advance. Greetings Cindy"
Cindy on Wednesday 3 August 2022

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