Monday, August 22, 2011

Harvesting the Great Northern Bean

Background History:
The GN Bean was given to Oscar H. Will ( I think he was a seed collector) in 1883 by a Hidatsa Indian. The Hidatsas were from North Dakota so it is possible the bean was also grown here. I like to imagine my ancestors grew them but that is a romantic notion. Still, it is possible.

The bean has been this years greatest success in my garden because it is drought resistant. How strange to live in a province that saw massive flooding this year and yet parts of the province have been so terribly dry. Where I live July saw the least amount of rain in recorded history. Anyway, the beans did well in spite of it. They don't grow much taller than what you see here. They like to grab onto something so growing them with corn is good.

After awhile you will notice your bean plants starting to die off. Worry not, this means your beans are almost ready. Great Northern Bean is not like a pole bean. You harvest it dry.

It is time to take the bean from the plant when the skin is crunchy. At this stage the beans will pop out easily from the shell. I cut up the used shells and put them in the compost.

I am not sure if this next step is necessary but it seems like a reasonable thing to do. I leave the beans out on a paper towel for a week to let all the moisture out before storing them in a bag. Keep the bag in a dry cool place. Don't forget to save some beans for next year's crop.

...and remember to give thanks for the harvest in whatever way you know.


  1. Hey Gail --

    Love the post. I wanted to let you know that my great grandfather, Oscar H. Will, was a seedsman in North Dakota. He introduced the Great Northern after several years of selection from plants he grew out using seaed that Son of Star gave him (they came in a leather pouch). You might imagine that we ate lots of Great Northerns growing up -- it's still my favorite dry bean.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this information.It was quite a treat to read.I have a few questions if you care to write back.

  3. Great post! I had a package of GNB seeds from 2009 but never planted them as I thought they were a bush bean and bush yields are too low for shell/dry beans in a small garden.

    I planted the seeds in July as a cover crop and I didn't know if they would grow as July is way too hot to grow beans in my climate. I am AMAZED how well they're growing in the heat and that they're a pole bean! I found your blog and post when I was searching about these beans today. Aloha!