How to Harvest – Pinto Beans.
Approximately 3 to 5 months after planting your Pinto Beans, the plants should be bearing a lot of bean pods and the leaves should be turning yellow and brown. Plants should be somewhat droopy.
Pinto Beans are most commonly used as a dried bean, which means that the beans dry in the pod, on the plant. Usually, the pods are gathered once the plant is dead.
However, you are supposed to stop watering them once the leaves begin to yellow to speed the drying process. In the typical home garden, most plants are close enough together that getting water to most of the garden and not the beans is hard to do.
Sometimes, the weather will not co-operate. Just as the bean plants are starting to dry out, here comes the rain! Large scale farmers worry about this kind of thing all the time. As a home gardener, you have a solution that is impractical on a large scale, but easy enough for you.
Once the pods are mostly dry, you can pull the plants and lay them out in the sun, or hang the plants in bunches in a cool, dry location. I lay my plants out in the backyard on the pavement where they will get a lot of sun, making sure that the plants are spread out well to avoid mold or rot developing.
Here is a picture of a plant that has been pulled for further drying:
The pods have red stripes and spots while it is still fresh. These markings will all fade away as the pod dries out. Additionally, the beans get hard inside the pod. A dry pod is grey or tan in color. Dry pods can be stripped from the plant. Since the roots of the bean plants have the nitrogen nodules, you want those to be back in the soil, so once the pods have been stripped, coarsely chop the plants and work them back into the garden soil.
Spread the pods out in a single, well separated layer to dry a little longer. Beans are ready to be shelled (removed from the pods) when they rattle slightly in the pods when shaken.
When the pods rattle slightly, it’s shelling time! Press on the ridged edge of the pod and it will pop open. Working over a large bowl will save you time in retrieving beans that pop out onto the floor. There will usually be 3 to 5 beans per pod.
Since I planted my Pinto Beans near my Onions (which is not an ideal location) and I planted the smaller bush variety, I am getting approximately 5 to 9 pods per plant. This works out to about a maximum of 45 beans per plant.
It takes a pretty fair number of plants to grow enough Pinto Beans to feed your family if you are planning on using your beans to make refried beans, but Pinto Beans are great in many other dishes as well.
Ideally, planting at least 10 bushes per person will give you enough beans to make a couple of meals during the fall and winter. If you find that you really like Pinto Beans, you can plant more than one crop, if your regional climate will allow for the additional months for the plants to mature. This is called succession planting and is most practical in the southern US. In the north, it’s best to plant as many plants as you can allow space for, as you won’t have the longer growing season.