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In our garden, beans are often one of the first veggies to produce a plentiful harvest that has us thinking about stocking up for winter. We plant a variety of bush beans and pole beans knowing that they freeze beautifully and could easily supply us with vegetables for dinner on a weekly basis until the next year's harvest.
How to Harvest Beans:
If planted at the same time, bush beans will produce first (and in a concentrated span of about two weeks) and pole beans will produce later (and over a longer period of time as they continue to expand). Among the varieties, we have found that yellow wax beans then to the earliest crop but they are followed close on their heels by purple and green beans.
Plan to harvest about every two days in order to make the most of your harvest; the more you pick the more the bush produces new beans. Beans can surprise you, so you'll want to look under all of the leaves and around the edges of the plant to make sure you get them all. Pick beans then they are large and fairly long, but not large enough for you to see the shape of the beans inside. Beans that are too small will cook quicker than others and end up a bit mushy; beans that are too large will end up with a stringy, tough texture. This is especially important for freezing; you'll get the best results with uniform-sized beans.
The bean on the left is a little too small, the two middle ones are great,
the one on the right has probably gotten a little too big.
You can still eat them all, but aim for bean #3 for the
best harvest and for the best freezing results.
How to Freeze Beans:
There are many ways to preserve your garden harvest to feed your family over the winter. Canning and dehydrating are excellent options, but low-acid vegetables will require a pressure canner instead of a simple water bath canning system and some vegetables simply taste better when thoughtfully frozen. Beans fit that category. Hands down, by the end of the season these prolific providers take up the most real estate in our freezer. .
It is impressive how fresh frozen green beans can taste when lightly steamed and tossed with a little bit of butter and salt and pepper.
1 Prepare: Bring a large pot of water to a boil on your stove top, and fill a large bowl with cold water and ice and place next to your stove.
2 Blanch: Add beans to boiling water in batches, making sure that all of the beans are covered with water. Set your timer for 90 seconds. Remove the beans from the water with a slotted spoon or handled strainer and immediately plunge them in the cold water to stop the cooking process. You'll notice that your beans change color after a quick blanch; I love how bright and vibrant green beans get, but blanching purple beans makes me a little sad because they turn green ;).
3 Dry: Lay your beans out to dry on a clean kitchen towel (rolling them around to get excess moisture off of them helps, or if you have a ceiling fan in your kitchen, that works well too).
4 Bag: Use a vacuum sealing appliance to bag your beans in the quantities that you want. If you don’t have a vacuum sealing tool (though this is a product I recommend for your homestead!), you can use a resealable freezer bag, but it is extra important to remove as much moisture as possible and to try to remove as much air as possible when sealing. Try zipping up your resealable bag most of the way, then insert a straw into the bag to suck out the remaining air before completely sealing up the bag.