Dried beans vs "Fresh" Dried Beans
Prompted by the "Climber" question on the Gardening forum thought I'd ask the question: How do you cook fresh beans which are normally cooked in the dried state - pintos, kindneys, etc.
I'm not a fan of pintos, but planted some this year because they were on the rack when I was making other selections - thought it'd be fun to grow and understand the "dried bean" process. I've done a small amount of googling about it and it looks as though you can pick them while they're soft, with the pod still green, and cook in that fashion. What I haven't seen is whether you remove the bean from the green pod or cook them in the fashion of string/snap beans.
It's been hinted that the flavor is different, though doesn't say how. I'd assume it's a milder flavor and as such, typical pork fat/onion/garlic add-ins may be overwhelming?????
Beans that you normally cook in the dried state such as pintos, kidneys, etc. are called shell beans, whether you cook them fresh or dried. Shell beans are different from snap beans, which are the green beans familiar to us all. Snap bean pods are eaten, but according to Marian Morash's "The Victory Garden Cookbook" (my favorite reference for vegetable growing, harvesting, storing, and cooking), all fresh shell beans must be shelled. And according to Morash, it can be tricky to tell when fresh shell beans are ready; she says you have to go by the seed size and the color and texture of the pod. She suggests you check the seed packet and use the size they list as the optimum, that is the maximum, size and even harvest them before the seeds reach that size. She also says that shell bean pods often change color when mature and get "soft, like glove leather" which indicates time to harvest.
As to flavor, I can't help you there, I've only had fava beans and lima beans fresh, all other shell beans I've eaten dried. I hope you'll report back once you've cooked your first harvest!
Thanks jannie! That takes care of one question.
The packet isn't that helpful other than stating that "days to haverst" is a very long 102 days, preceded with the obvious "Dry beans do require a longer growing season". Well, duh..... It continues, "harvest when pods are completely dry and beans can hardly be dented when bitten".
Hopefully, someone else can advise on cooking methods/flavor for the fresh bean. Hadn't even thought about how fava beans are treated with that outer skin thing - wonder if there's anything special about pinto prep.
Marian Morash does say that only large favas have a skin tough enough that it must be removed, and that some people skin lima beans, but she says nothing about other fresh shell beans, so it's safe to assume you need not do anything special with your fresh pintos. (She does note, however, that you may need to remove the skin from fresh shell beans if they're overaged.)
Your seed packet instructions for harvest are for dried pods (as I'm sure you're aware). Use the information for days to harvest/maturity for snap beans as a guideline and start checking your shell beans around the same number of days to maturity as snap beans. There is no risk in harvesting them when they're small, they will be more tender and delicately flavored, perhaps, than if you leave them on the vine longer. Just like with snap beans!
I like to put larger shelling beans (e.g., borlotti) in the braising liquid when cooking tough, smaller cuts like goat shanks and lamb breasts. The cooking time works out about right for both the meat and the beans, and the beans end up soaking up a lot of great flavor.
Once everything is cooked, you can separate the beans from the other components and serve with a bit of the pan juices, a drizzle of good olive oil, and a sprinkling of chopped fresh herbs.