Legumes include all varieties of peas and beans. Pea varieties include shelling peas, grown for their edible seeds, and mangetout varieties that are grown for their edible pods. Beans include bush and pole varieties of green snap beans and dried shelling beans. Harvesting your legume crop at the proper time depends on the type of legume you are growing. Most legume crops are ready for harvest within 70 days of planting but checking on their progress ensures you harvest when they are at the height of their flavor.
Check the seed envelope for the standard days to maturity listed on the back. Begin checking your legumes one to two weeks before this date for signs of readiness for harvest.
Harvest snap beans and edible pea pods when the pods are firm but before the seeds begin to visibly bulge in them. Harvest shelling peas when the pods swell with the peas inside but they are still soft and green. Harvest dried beans once the pods have dried and the beans rattle around inside.
Pick legumes on a dry day in the early afternoon, after the dew has dried on the plants. Picking when plants are wet leads to disease which may kill them.
Snap the pods off the plant, taking care not to pull down the vine, and place them in a gathering bowl or basket. Rinse them in water then pat dry immediately after harvesting.
Prepare shelling peas and dried beans prior to use or storage. Shell peas before storage. Remove dried beans from the pods and spread out to dry in a warm, cool room for an additional two weeks.
Store dried beans in a sealed container. Store other legumes in the refrigerator for three to five days or blanch them in boiling water before freezing.