Should my shell beans have color?

shady_character(5A)July 24, 2010

Hello! I managed to get a garden space out of the shade this season so I've been enjoying a taste of paradise! One of the things I'm growing is beans to be harvested in the fresh shell stage. I've been reading through these threads on terminology and when to pick them, etc.

So, here's my situation: my Lina Cisco's Birdsegg are LOADED with fat pods that are getting purple spots on them. Some of the plants are turning a bit yellow. Perhaps that's from the copious amounts of rain we've been getting this year? When I've picked a few to test for readiness, the beans themselves look full-sized but are still snow white. They taste OK raw, if a little "green" flavored. Will they develop the colored markings eventually that the dried seed I planted had? The pods are still firm and not at all leathery yet. I'm apprehensive about waiting too long and having to let them continue to the dried stage if they get past their prime. Can that happen or are they good until they're really dry?

Thanks in advance for any help, advice or wisdom you'd like to share.


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Watch for the pods to turn color. That is the key to harvesting good shelly beans.

Most beans have green or purple shucks that turn respectively a yellowish or bleached lavender when they are mature. From that stage, it takes about 3 days of summer sun to turn them into dry beans. They taste best at the stage where the bean shucks have just turned color and the beans are still full size. If you want to save seed, wait until the shucks are dry and stiff before harvest.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 2:00PM
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Shady, is the Lina Cisco a bush, pole, or half runner bean? Did you buy them from SSE eating beans?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 4:01PM
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I did get them from someone who saved their SSE beans from a previous year. My guess is that they are a bush bean since they don't show any desire to climb anything. Does that make a difference? And you see in the SSE site how pretty they are? I want that! Not boring white ones! ;)

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 6:57PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

If the beans are still white, they are not yet fully ripe.

The red-speckled shelly beans (such as "Lina Cisco's") tend to develop red streaks on the pods as they ripen. These streaks darken as the seeds within approach maturity. When the pods begin to shrivel - which is the prime shelly stage - some of these streaks become purplish, and the pod will be noticeably limp just below the stem. The beans will have the best color at that stage.

As Farmerdilla mentioned, that stage does not last long. To get the best-colored beans requires frequent picking; I would recommend at least ever other day, if not daily. However, some prefer the mix of green (or white) and color; in which case, for bush beans such as "Lina Cisco's", you would only pick them once or twice, and perhaps let some go for dry seed.

The shellies will usually be a pale version of the dry seed, so the darker the color in the dry seed, the more color will be retained as shellies. (Some will turn gray or white regardless of their markings.) Black and the near-black maroons & blues produce some of the prettiest shellies. The shellies below (from a Hungarian bush bean) all have dark maroon-black markings when dry, so they retain much of their color even after cooking.

"Giant Red Tarka"

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 4:50PM
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Those beans are gorgeous!

Thanks, everyone for all the information. I've been trying to get to the patch at least every other day to check on things and now I feel equipped with the knowledge of when to start picking. When I do it may well be every day that I get up there. Like I said, it's my taste of paradise ;)

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 5:04PM
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