This week during Open Garden, we collected the bean seeds that have been drying on the plants for several weeks and examined the soy bean seeds that had been left to undergo their natural dispersal process. At the final stage of drying the bean pods will twist until they burst, allowing the beans inside to pop out of the shells and spread out in the surrounding around.
The trick to collecting your soup beans is getting to them just before they hit this stage. You want the pods to be dry and brittle, but not at the point of starting to twist. I usually have to find one that has already twisted and flung out its seeds before I realize it’s time to pick the rest of them. Once the dried seed pods are collected, you can put them into a paperbag and shake the closed bag to break open the pods and free the beans. Then lift out the dried shells to toss into the compost bin and what’s left in the bag is your beans.
Just to be sure that they are really dry, I sometimes add a commercial desiccant packet to the bottom of the container I keep them in, but a little dried milk in a folded piece of paper towel will also do the trick.
To use the beans, I soak them overnight with a good size piece of kombu (seaweed) to make them easier to digest. Then I throw out that soaking water but save the kombu to cook with the beans. In the Spring I definitely plan to try more varieties of drying beans for soup all Winter long.