Cook what you grow... drying beans

Troubled by wind: My collapsing row of runner beans.
Troubled by wind: My collapsing row of runner beans.

THE strong winds a week or so ago have wreaked havoc with the runner beans.

They’re top heavy and even though they were secured to the wall as well as a frame, it just wasn’t enough to stop the bamboo poles from snapping under the weight.

After a quick “running” repair last weekend, I decided to let the pods dry on the plants to keep over winter, so I can add them to stews, casseroles and soups.

The full-grown pods turn yellow and dry, which means they’re mature. If the weather is damp next month and mould becomes a problem, dig up the whole plant and hang it upside down in a warm place to dry.

A word of caution – dried beans have a concentration of the toxin lectin phytohaemagglutinin that must be removed by cooking.

A recommended method is to boil the beans for at least 10 minutes; undercooked beans may be more toxic than raw ones.

And so strong winds don’t wreak havoc with you, flatulence caused by beans can be eased by cooking them with summer savory, anise, coriander or cumin!

To reconstitute, remove discoloured and shrivelled beans or debris.

Put them into a bowl approximately three times the size of the quantity you have to allow for expansion.

Cover with water and leave overnight. Add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda if you live in a hard water area like us – DO NOT add salt.

When the beans have reconstituted, rinse them thoroughly a couple of times with clean water then cover with fresh water, bring to the boil and simmer until they’re soft-ish – start trying them after about an hour. If they are still hard or gritty, give them another 30 minutes.

Dried beans will keep in an airtight jar for at least a year, and you can safely germinate a new crop from two-year-old saved beans.