What to do with Overgrown Green Beans

It happens to even the most savvy gardener. You go out of town on vacation and when you return, there are beans…lots of beans. Not just any beans, overripe beans. Tough, fibrous, partially mature beans that are still green. What to do? We’re exploring the possibilities.

Green bean overload. We filled a 1 gallon bucket from our 4 square foot patch of bush beans when we got home.

Green bean overload. We filled a 1 gallon bucket from our 4 square foot patch of bush beans when we got home.

When are green beans overripe?

It’s pretty easy to tell when green beans have gone too far. You can see the outline of individual seeds bulging inside the pod. The pods themselves will be fibrous and difficult to chew. Sugars will have turned to starch at this point as well. But all is not lost.

We did a quick search on the interwebs to find suggestions from other gardeners with the same problem. Several people recommended “shelly beans.” What are shelly beans? It’s when you shell the green beans and cook the seeds. Supposedly it’s a great use for beans that are too tough to eat, but not dry enough to store for soup later on. Okay, we’ll try that.

Yellow Roc d'Or beans have purple seeds inside.

Yellow Roc d’Or beans have purple seeds inside.

Haricot Verts are green through and through.

Haricot Verts are green through and through.

We began the process by peeling open each pod and separating out the beans. Let me say, this is no easy task. I’m still searching for the trick to zip open a tough pod with one quick flick of the wrist or something magical like that. So far, no luck. Do this while watching a movie. And of course, many hands make light work.

Green and yellow (purple) beans are now shelled. Now to cook them.

Green and yellow (purple) beans are now shelled. Now to cook them.

We still have a ways to go to shell the rest of the beans, but you get the idea. Suggestions for cooking hovered mostly around the idea of boiling them in water or broth for about 20 minutes and then further cooking them in a little butter and garlic. Here’s a recipe we found on a forum from DigDirt2 in Arkansas:

“For a side dish, boiling them for 20-30 min. until fork tender in a broth with added ingredients such as onions, garlic, peppers, and other seasonings is a common method of preparing them down south. They can also be baked, added to soups and stews, etc. They can be used in jambalaya and other creole recipes, a dish called Hoppin’ John (a personal favorite), dirty rice recipes, and even mashed and used like refried beans.”

So as soon as we shell the rest of these beans, that’s what we’ll be doing. We’ll let you know how it comes out. In the meanwhile, if anyone has tricks for shelling quickly we’d love to hear your ideas. Post a comment below.

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7 Responses to What to do with Overgrown Green Beans

  1. Gardengirl says:

    My favorite way to eat Shelly beans is to cook them with fresh snapped (younger) green beans and new potatoes (particularly red potatoes) fresh from the garden. Cook them in lightly salted water or chicken stock (about 20 minutes), drain when done, and stir in a little bit of butter, fresh-ground pepper, and salt if needed. Heavenly 🙂

  2. Steven E says:

    Well I just finished eating a sample small batch of mature green beans. I too did not know what to do with my freshly picked from the tall pole bean plant green beans. This is what I did and I must admit it was quite satisfying. Snapped off the ends and along with it some of the string if it would come off without extra effort. Didn’t really think too much about the string being off. Some of them the string came off from top to bottom and some not so much. Snapped into peices about a half of a cup with just enough water to nearly cover with salt from the mill and about a large teaspoon of margarine. Set the burner to high to get it boiling and reduced the heat covered and simmered for about 15 to 20 minutes or so. Sampled a piece of the cooked bean and seed during the process hm not bad I thought. Added some pepper for extra flavor and finished with a couple minutes on high to get it to boil since I had removed the lid, and then turned off the heat and came back once it cooled a little. Then I had an idea. My wife had just had a salad and the salad bowl was sitting on the counter. I remembered from a time having roommates when one of them had cooked bacon and put the bacon grease on his salad. Well along that line the beans had a good amount of butter cooked with them so I dished up a salad and poured the warm beans and all of the flavorful buttery juice onto the salad. I added a good amount of ranch dressing and sat down and enjoyed my new dish. I just gotta say it was pretty good. I ate it with nothing else and the lettuce was still a little crisp when finishing.

  3. Dave says:

    I shelled my overgrown green beans (a relaxing Sunday afternoon task) and ended up with about 4 cups. I chopped a half pound of bacon, cooked and drained most of the fat. Then added a chopped medium onion, 4 cloves of minced garlic, 2 peppers. Let it fry up a bit while stirring, then added my beans and 2 chopped fresh tomatoes. I added 4 cups of vegetable broth, a teaspoon of ground pepper, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes 3/4 covered, stirring occasionally.
    Upon tasting, I added about 2 tsp sugar to help mask some of the saltiness from the bacon.
    It was a huge hit with the family!

  4. Julie says:

    And the verdict is…?

    • Christy says:

      I confess, I did not follow through on my intentions to shell the rest of the beans. I ended up just cooking them whole for a potluck and they turned out pretty good after all. The shelled beans disappeared into the back of the fridge, sadly to be discovered a couple weeks later. The best laid plans…

      Please do try it and report back your results. We’d love to know how it works for you.

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