Monday, August 27, 2012

Harvesting Dried Hutterite Beans

One thing we've been interested in lately is whether we can grow a larger portion of our calories here on the farm by growing more things like grains and legumes. These also have the added benefit that they last a long time in storage, so we can eat them and give them to our CSA members over the winter when there are less veggies growing. Last year we grew a small plot of Hutterite beans, which are a white soup bean, somewhat like navy beans. They tasted fantastic and were easy to grow, so this year we planted a lot more.

Since we have very dry summers here, we just leave the plants in the ground until the bean pods are dry and rattle when shaken. Then we pull up the plants and begin the process of shelling the beans. This is where things become difficult. We don't have a machine for this, so we've come up with two old-fashioned methods:
1. Shelling (shucking) the beans one by one, splitting the pods open and dropping the beans into a bowl. It takes forever, but the beans come out nice and clean, and we can work on it while watching movies.
2. Threshing and winnowing (don't you just love the old-timey sound of it?)-- We put the bean plants in a box or bag and step on them until the pods open and release the beans (that's threshing). That's the easy part. Then we have to winnow them, which means separate the beans from the chaff, i.e. all the stuff, like dried leaves and broken pods, that is now mixed up with them. We accomplish this by pouring the beans from one box to into another on a windy day, so that the wind blows the chaff away, and the beans fall into the box. Someday we might modernize and buy an electric fan to help us along.

The harvest isn't done yet, but I think we'll end up with about 15 lbs. of beans from our 60 ft. row.

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