Last year we dabbled in dry beans. We grew a couple rows and then kicked ourselves for not planting more when we realized what a low maintenance crop they are...and what a fabulous yeild you get. We eat a ton of dry beans. Usually I buy a 50# bag from the local co-op and we work our way through it.
Rice and beans, baked beans, chili, pureed beans in stuff, beans in salad...beany bean bean. But they are really so easy to grow--it seems worth the garden space to us.
This year we planted 400 row feet. We haven't weighed in yet but we are estimating about a 40# yeild. We plant in raised rows right in our garden which is 40' X 100'. We planted two varieties. Jacob's Cattle, which are beautiful and delicious but yeild a little lower than others and a Cranberry variety. Planting is easy. Just like green beans. They are bushy like green beans so the maintenance is pretty low as the bushy plant shades out the weeds fairly early. The best part, however, is the harvest!
We harvest the beans when the pods (and plants for that matter) are dry and dead looking. You want to pull them off the field when most of the pods will shatter and the beans are dry and just fall out. They're all shattery and rattley. It is serious stuff...seriously exciting. So on a nice hot sweltering day we hit the field. My favorite method is to pull the plants up by the roots and then use my other hand to pull the bean pods off. It seems to make pretty quick work of it.
We then toss the pods in grain bags and set them aside. At this point, as long as your bags are well ventilated and you have a dry place to store them, you can breathe easy. You can shell the beans whenever you get some free time. Shelling beans while listening to Prarie Home Companion...perfection. They just cure while they wait to be shelled. Once shelled, check for dryness. If you can't dent them with a fingernail, put them in jars and store in the pantry.
Fun work for helping hands.
September and October are my squirrel months. I start getting all squirrel like...canning, cooking, freezing, filling the cellar. The dry beans feed right into the craziness. There is intense satisfaction to be had sitting in the evening and shelling dry beans and listening to the last of the summer crickets outside the window...and them listening to the sounds of me...squirreling my beans away for winter.