Unlike green beans, shelling beans are eaten for the edible seeds inside and have pods that must be removed before the bean can be cooked or dried. Nutritionally, shelling beans are similar to dry beans, but in the kitchen they are treated as a vegetable, often steamed, fried, or made into soups. Most shelling bean crops are harvested when the pods and beans inside are dry, just before the pod shatters, and then typically sold as a dried product throughout the year. But you can find some of these varietals in their fresh state at the Farmer’s Market during the late summer and fall. A shriveled and slightly moist pod indicates a plump bean inside and when purchased fresh, shelling beans take only minutes to cook and do not require an overnight soak. They require very little preparation to taste delicious and are perfect on their own in a simple salad or as a meaty topper to a pasta dish.
Many shelling beans are also sold dry to extend the season. Rancho Gordo, Tierra Farm, Dirty Girl and Iacopi Farm all sell dried beans throughout the year.