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

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.

This Post Has 55 Comments

  1. Jane Muller

    My husband hates waste, so he cuts the overripe pole beans into small pieces and microwaves for three minutes before adding to whatever he is eating. He says they’re delicious!

    1. Gail

      Hey I tried this and he’s right. All my overgrown beans are chopped, washed and microwaved till soft. They are very delicious, and once cool I’ll bag up and freeze to add to soups, stews etc. or eat on their own. Thank you for this tip 😁👍

  2. Katie

    but burly late-picked runner beans – use potato peeler to run down the inner curve of the length of the bean – maybe twice for bigger ones – then easy to pop beans out – adding them to huge pan of chili con carne – much prefer them to kidney beans!

    1. Christy

      Great idea, Katie! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Hans

    Instead of shelling them before cooking, it’s easeir to shell them after cooking.

    1. Christy

      Brilliant! Great idea, Hans.

      1. Maria Elena

        I agree with Hans, cook them first and the shells fall right off. Using a pressure cooker would make the job even easier, uses a lot less water too.

  4. Melissa

    Put your dried beans in a pillowcase and take out your aggressions on them. Tie the pillowcase and start slamming them on the table or any hard surface. Most, if not all your beans will be separated from the pod. Then put them in a large bowl and go outside and gently put your blow dryer on med to high and separate the chaff. Works like a charm, enjoy !!

  5. PJ

    My mother, prior to freezers, used to blanch the fresh chopped runner beans. Drain them and pack them into jars with a layer of salt, chopped beans, salt etc. Tasted marvellous in mid winter after rinsing off the salt and cooking as usual

    1. Christy

      Cool. Thanks for sharing, PJ.

  6. Irv

    Most people with “shellie” beans, eat the whole thing as long as not much more than 50% of the pod has turned brown and very dry. Just snap off the ends, de-string if needed, break in half and cook. It may take a couple of hours but the pods will soften up and taste great–a lot more flavor than young beans. Although I like both. It’s traditional to cook shellie beans with ham or bacon for even more flavor.

  7. Sheree

    Thanks, all, for your suggestions! My final picking of beans for this season had mostly beans that looked like Lincoln logs, so here is what I did after reading your posts:

    2 – 32 oz. containers of Chicken Broth (8 cups) in a large pot
    Green Beans, washed, trimmed, snapped (the overgrown ones work well for this)
    Onions, to taste (whole chopped or dehydrated)
    Garlic, to taste (at least 1 tsp., chopped)
    1/2 pound of Bacon, chopped – raw or precooked to reduce the fat
    Baby potatoes or potato cubes, optional
    8 cups of Milk
    7 cups of Potato powder for mashed potatoes
    3-6 T. Butter, optional
    2 tsp. Salt, optional – or to taste – for potatoes

    Simmer the Green Beans, Onions, Garlic, and chopped Bacon in the Chicken broth over low heat for a couple of hours (or in a crock pot). Add baby or cubed potatoes, if desired, and cook about 10 minutes or until tender. Add milk and potato powder along with butter and salt, to taste. Stir until creamy. Heat through. Enjoy the WONDERFUL flavor combinations! This is the most flavorful homemade soup I have EVER made!

    Freeze leftovers for quick lunches later.

  8. amanda

    Do you have blauhilde beans? I’m trying to figure out how to preserve these runner beans. I have younger and older ones, but read online the purple pods can be toxic raw. Which was a surprise as I’ve been eating them off the vines.

    Im guessing the older ones should be treated as above, shelled and cooked like dry beans. Or dried for longer storage?

    1. Christy

      I wish I could say I’ve had experience with Blauhilde beans, but I haven’t. Nor have I tried preserving beans other than to dry them out for use in soups later. I did a quick search to see if anyone else was posting suggestions, and most of those came back with either drying or freezing. Sorry I can’t be more of a help on this one.

    2. Mel


  9. Kate

    What did you discover??

    1. Christy

      We just discovered that the comments have been hidden on most posts. We’re working on that. There is a thread of suggestions and what we ended up doing in the comments. We’ll troubleshoot and get those back up soon!

      1. Shea

        Just found this page. I can see all comments just fine. I too had overripe Asian long green beans so they removed them from pods and dried.
        I make what I call EBTKS sauce, everything but the kitchen sink .. It’s differnt every time depending on what we have ready to pick. All organic all homegrown ingredients (except the Apple cider vinegar which I add at the end )
        So to day the EBTKS recipe was this: Golden yellow sweet cherry tomatoes, mortgage lifter huge fat red tomatoes, ( I do not seed or skin my tomatoes as tha s where the vitamins are) yellow and orange sweet peppers, one habanero, one Bermuda onion, garlic, about 25 ripe Goji berries ( more vita C than any other fruit) and a half a cup of dried beans from the Asian long beans that got overgrown. so I sautéed garlic and onion and beans in Greek olive oil— just because that’s what I had today— and when onion start to get translucent I add all of the other ingredients and simmer it until it starts bubbling then I use a potato masher to crush all the cherries and then I let it cool and put it in the ninja blender until it looks like marinara or tomato soup. And then I put it in jars and process it in the boiling water bath and it’s yummy yummy yummy the kids have no idea I’m sneaking nutrients and ‘ exotics’ into their macaroni.

        1. Molly Bishop

          Sounds wonderful, but I think you’re playing with fire by canning in a hot water bath. Much safer to either pressure cook or freeze (the latter would be my choice.).

  10. Jeanne Kuntz,

    Sad to see that , four years later, string beans are still causing trouble. I pick mine when they are still super thin and flat, but they are stringy and tough, non the less

    1. Betty Harris

      Have you tried bsh beans? The purple bush bean are my favorite and very rarely stringy. Also rattlesnake pole beans

    2. Molly

      One common fix is to water more regularly for more tender beans.

      1. Christy

        While that’s true that watering regularly will produce tender beans, the issue here is picking too late, once the beans have past their prime. Water won’t fix bad timing.

  11. Laura

    I cooked the whole pod first, then pods are softer and it’s much easier to split open and get the beans out.

    1. Chris

      Great idea Laura!

  12. Terry L Lowman

    I cut the top and bottom vein off, leaving the side of the bean and most of the beans inside…and I could eat them raw without getting a mouthful of fibers.

    1. Shea

      I messed up the email address

  13. wesley hayden

    Two people…. (me and my partner)..

    One wears a gardening glove and runs a small box cutter down the vertical bean.

    Other person picks these up and shells the pod (which without help of a knife previously makes for very slow production line).

    Get recipe from t’internet.

    Cook beans which ever way ALWAYS paired with summer Savory herb (counter acts the flatulence of eating lots of beans)


    1. Shirley Giesbrecht

      I love the summer savory but use it in green bean soup made with smoked meat of any kind, brown in soup pot and when done add onions chopped fine, brown a bit longer add baby potatoes washed and quartered and then add green beans cut in half inch pieces add water to cover and simmer til fork tender with a big bunch of summer savory salt and pepper to taste. Add cream to taste and serve.

  14. Karen Kruschke

    can you cook them and then freeze them to use in dishes later on? I already have my bean seeds for next year, Thank you

    1. Christy

      Karen, sure. They might be a little tough if left in the pods, but removed, they can be cooked to tenderness (or parboiled for later) and then frozen. They won’t be like fresh beans, but still usable.

  15. Jodi

    Thank you for this post! Not giving up.

  16. Dotty

    I save my over ripe beans, dry them, then shell them for next year’s planting. Two years now and success.

    1. Sue

      I too do that Dotty. I still have a bean from the 90s a fiend gave me. I don’t know the kind but they are good when the render beans come on and if they get too big I leave them to go to seed. I guess they came from Kansas.

  17. Paula Barnes

    My way of shelling is to run down the bean joint side with a potato peeler and pop them

    1. Christy

      That is so clever, Paula. Thanks for sharing! I’ll have to try that.

    2. Karen

      Just tried the peeler. Excellent!

  18. Wyandotte B.

    They are much easier to shell if you throw the pods into boiling water (as in blanching) for a few minutes. Then remove them by dumping into a strainer and wait for them to cool off, or you could dowse them with cold water. The seeds will slip out easily; no effort involved.

    1. Christy

      Thanks for the suggestion. We’ll try that next time around.

  19. Stephanie Grindon

    We were shelling green beans yesteray. I found that the dryer ones were easier to shell, so we did all the yellow and brown ones, and I will sit the big green ones by the woodstove to dry, and do them later. I do love shelling beans, its nice to do in front of the fire at night 🙂 .

  20. Tee Gardener

    Has anyone tried using food processor or blender them into a hummus?

    1. Christy

      I wouldn’t try it with fresh beans, but if they were dried, soaked and cooked, then that might be interesting. I guess it depends on the flavor of the bean, whether it would taste good or not. Although if you add garlic to anything it probably would taste great.

  21. Angela Meyers-Schlup

    I tried it. Here’s what I did…. I soaked them in water overnight. I cut bacon pieces, chopped onions and chopped green bell pepper. Simmered for an hour. Salt and pepper to taste. OMG, it was so yummy!

    1. sarah burns

      Did you blend?

    2. Joe

      Of course, bacon would make dog poop taste good 😉

  22. Gail Morgan

    I will be trying some fritters with very finely chopped over ripe green beans. I will boil the pieces for 10 minutes or so, then add a fritter bater that probably includes Parmesan cheese, and fry them up! Thank you for your thoughts above.

  23. Gardengirl

    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 🙂

  24. Steven E

    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.

    1. Christy

      Thanks for sharing your ideas, Steven. Sounds like good eats!

  25. Dave

    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!

    1. Christy

      Thanks for sharing, Dave. I love that they cook up so quickly!

      1. Agnes

        I will try that.

  26. Julie

    And the verdict is…?

    1. Christy

      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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