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How to Dry and Store Scarlett Runner Beans

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Saving seed from this valued garden crop will ensure productive future harvests.

By Greg Seaman Posted Oct 17, 2013

Bean Seeds
Scarlett Runner Beans are one of our most valued garden crops. Grown on a trellis, these tall plants produce a large volume of food for a relatively small area of ground space. The long thin green beans, usually eaten in the pod, find their way into all sorts of recipes throughout summer and early fall, when production drops off.

Runner beans are perennial, but we have mixed results with natural germination in spring. New shoots may emerge later in the spring than we had planned for, or may be damaged by bugs, or simply not emerge at all. For best results, we save seeds in the fall from the biggest pods and dry them for winter storage.

Runner beans lend themselves to drying more than bush beans. Because runner beans hang their pods high, they’re better aerated and less prone to rot. And because the pods and seeds are big, they’re easy to shell. In hot climates, some gardeners simply let the beans dry on the vine.  But if your climate is damp and cool in autumn, better results can be had by shelling and drying the beans indoors.

It takes about a week for beans to dry in our home. We set them in a warm location indoors and flip them after a few days. Some people speed up the process by setting the shucked beans in an oven set to 120 F for an hour, or until dry. You can also dry beans using a dehydrator, which uses a fan to speed the process up. Our approach is to keep it simple and let the beans air dry indoors.

Here are a few basic tips to help ensure successful bean drying and storage.

1. In September stop watering your open pollinated pole beans.

This will cause the vines to ripen the seeds, which will get ‘bulgy’ in the pod. Immature pods can still be picked for eating while the largest pods develop the seeds. Once the leaves start to die you’ll know it’s almost time to collect the mature seed pods. Leave the pods as long as you can in October, or until it looks like rain, then pick and bring in the house.

Moldy patches on the pods or vines are a sign to dry the beans inside. Ideally, the pods become so dry they are crispy. But in humid climates this is not the norm.

Bean Seeds

2. Bean seeds can dry in normal house temperatures with good ventilation.

Some gardeners hang the bean vines upside down until the pods dry, but we find this a wieldy process. In our moist climate we prefer to shuck the beans by hand to speed drying, and toss the vines, well-chopped, into the compost.

Save the biggest and best formed pods for seed. Use the string on the pod like a zipper, and gently twist the pod to pop it open. With clean, dry hands, remove the seed carefully as it has a delicate skin until dry. Lay on a clean tray, with space around the seeds. You can use newspaper or paper towels beneath the seeds if you wish. In a few days when they are drier and firm shake the tray to move them around, then flip the beans over. It may take a week or two to dry completely. Discard small or damaged beans.

Bean Seeds

3. Store dry beans in an airtight container in a cool, dry spot, preferably in your house.

Humidity and warmth will shorten a seed’s shelf life, so store your seeds on a cool pantry shelf or similar location. The refrigerator can also be used for seed storage but not the freezer.

Label all bags or jars of seeds with the variety and date. Most seeds will be viable for at least three years if stored well. Enclose in each container a silica gel desiccant packet, which can be bought at hobby/craft stores. Many products, like shoes and electronics, come with these little bags. Once a year the gels can be recharged in a 250 degree oven for a few hours. If not handy, wrap 2 heaping Tablespoons powdered milk in 4 layers of facial tissue and put in container. Replace every 6 months.

Bean Seeds

Your Scarlett Runner bean seeds are now safely stored until you are ready to replant a bean crop next spring.

Eating the shucked beans

Scarlett Runner beans are usually eaten as fresh green ‘string’ beans in the pod.  However, if you have a surplus of dried beans, they can be cooked and served in meals. These beans cannot be eaten raw.

To prepare the shucked beans for eating, first soak the dried beans in cold water for 12 hours. They are then cooked for approximately 2 hours, or until tender. Beans harvested in autumn do not need be soaked and are soft and cooked in about 30 minutes. When using scarlet runner beans in salads, be sure to add some salt to the cooking water.



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  • Maria

    thank you! i needed this info and didn’t have time to watch a bunch of chatty videos. very helpful for me and my beans

    • Thanks Maria for your comment. We’re out picking beans today!

      • Maria

        so much great information on your site; i’m glad your whole family can be involved in such a worthwhile enterprise!

  • viviloveith

    Thank you so much for posting this! It is always such a joy to google a question and fine a well written article that completely answers what I needed to know!!

    • Thanks for your note of appreciation!

      • viviloveith

        First, why did you remove my comment, since I was thanking you and you replied thanking me for the comment?

        Second, now having harvested and dried the scarlet runner beans, I would like to make a suggestion. Your method works great for MATURE beans. But for any that are slightly immature, it works far better to leave them in the shell and dry them pretty much completely before shelling them.

        Letting the bean pods dry allows the immature beans to finish ripening and curing. Yes, they will be smaller than the fully mature ones but they will still be good. If instead you shell them when they are green the beans just dry up to nothing or rot.

        I also live in a wet climate. I spread the bean pods out on cooking racks and put them in front of the heating vents. Worked great!

  • Just keep them warm and dry, and separated from each other until then. We just set our dried bean seeds in a small yogurt container and put them away till next summer’s planting.
    The flowers are beautiful, I never heard of someone growing beans for the flowers. Hope you are using the beans too.

    • Sue Collins

      I grow them for the flowers as the hummingbirds love those beautiful scarlet blooms. I’ve never cooked the beans.

  • Wendy Poginy

    I bought these beans this year for a privacy screen on my front porch. Because the beans are large,
    I will be saving them and using them for meals. I may also try to sell them dried to the local health food store as I know they do not have this particular bean.

    • Sounds good. You’re going to appreciate how easy and trouble-free these are to grow. The trellised beans also provide shade, we have a seating area behind ours.

  • Fiona Marie

    Could I put them on a low setting in my dehydrator? ***duh I see you already sugguested that*** thanks! 🙂

  • Lisa Kukla

    Thank you for the instructions. I did the boo-boo mistake of picking a few beans with immature seeds in them. I ate one pod with some immature beans. Hopefully I don’t get too sick. But I am going to let the rest sit on the vines till they are dried or close enough before picking them. I just love the colors on the flowers and the beans themselves. thank you very much for the website.

    • Thanks!

    • Tobreth Hansen

      I understand immature ones can be eaten raw.

      • Interesting, haven’t heard this. The immature pods,left to grow, will double in size .

  • Hmm, fresh scarlet runner beans should be very tasty. Maybe you let them get too big before harvesting – they get tough and less flavorful as the seeds develop.

    • Justine

      It’s quite possible. They jump from thin and 5″ long to thick and 8″ long seemingly overnight! The thin ones look too “young” somehow, but then the next stage is tough. This is why I let so many grow to be big. I figured maybe I can use the seeds inside as dried beans?
      It’s a lovely plant with its red-orange flowers and long beans.

      • Yes, that’s how it goes with scarlet runner beans. You have to pick them everyday and while they are thin and tender or they will stop producing and the remaining beans will fatten up and go to seed.
        You can save the seeds inside but you’ll only need a few beans for this. So pick the thin ones, they taste the best, and leave just a few beans on the vine to provide seeds for next season.

        • Justine

          Ooooh. So I can’t eat the seeds as dried beans? I’d only do it if they were reputed to be tasty. 🙂 I have about 60 pods picked yesterday. I wouldn’t need all those for planting (obviously!). Thanks!

          • You can grow shelling bean varieties that are meant for drying and eating. They’re usually smaller. I don’t know how your scarlet runner beans will taste.

  • rednig

    Scarlet runners were always a favorite in this part of Pennsylvania. Cool to cold nights seem to make them bloom much better. Heat kills the pollen. My neighbor has a nice bean patch, pintos, and I warned him, they can get moldy in the pod (they’re desert beans, not for humid areas). He shrugged. But, this is to say thank you for the article. Native American women were the developers of most of what we have. they picked for use, but also for beauty. are you raising achira?

    Man, I want to be home to Arizona and down to visit family in the Sierras, in Chihuahua. 🙂

    • Thanks for your comments. Our bean crop is just coming on with the first harvest today. Am not familiar with achira but will look it up.

      • rednig

        No es nada, friend. This is a great bean, but for it’s dislike of heat. a bro, Omar, is from Guatemala and his wife was delighted when I gave them a pack of seeds. I was happy too, to at last have them back in the garden. A friend in Texas said his wife will try them in their winter garden.

        Achira is canna lily, and native to the Andes, but was grown away up north in Susquehannock country (Pennsylvania today) before Europeans knew we were here. is a good site for like-mind folks. The root is high-quality starch (very common now in Asia). Tops make livestock feed (and a good mulch), shoots are cooked like asparagus. It’s no wonder food, but fits well into any garden. In Mexico, I had tortillas made with the seeds. In India, the seeds were used to replace musket balls, they’re that hard.

        Hope life and the garden too, are blooming well for you.

        • So interesting, we’ve got to try this. I’ll look into getting some seed. We live in a micro climate that just may suit achira.
          Thanks again for your comment, nice to talk with you.

        • One more question – is achira a fast spreading plant? We watch out for introducing invasive plants, but we have the space for another crop.

          • rednig

            No, but it will spread. You’ll want more as time goes on. It is frost sensitive, but can survive as far north as Virginia along the coast. This plant was so valued, people made the effort to store the best roots in root cellars. It’s been raised in Central America probably before maize was introduced.

          • Thanks for this…very interesting.

  • disqus_XolPcDrDAq

    Hi, I’m late to this post, but I’m growing sunset runner beans, are they the same as scarlett? The pods are so hairy, I thought we weren’t supposed to eat the pods. Do you just eat them straight off the vine or do you always cook them first? Thanks!

    • The sunsets are similar but produce more seeds. They can be eaten fresh as young pods, or steamed, roasted or frozen for keeping. Once the beans mature, the dry beans can be used in stews and similar recipes.

  • Michael McCann

    Some of the pods we picked were damp, and the seeds begin to sprout. Can these still be eaten? A fellow gardiner suggested rinsing them in a weak vinegar solution and letting them dry completey…

    • Your pods will be getting tough, so steam them a bit longer before eating. The damp beans should be fine as long as they are not slimy. I’ve never tried the vinegar rinse.

  • Carola

    I’ve had people tell me the dried beans are particularly tasty. And I’ve had pods grow to 8″ or longer while remaining tender, though some get tough sooner. It’s easy to tell–if you can see bulges where the seeds are swelling, they’re too old.

  • We haven’t tried pruning the runner vines, instead we have a bench behind the trellis to stand on to reach the top of the crop. Like you, we also were enjoying these beans direct from the garden up a few weeks ago, around mid-November.
    Interesting they are sold as flowers in some garden centers. They do have a beautiful display.

    • Carola

      The last couple of years, I’ve grown them in raised planters. I stand on the edge of the planter–rather precariously!–to pick. This year they were climbing my birch tree.

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