This is something we often reference, that you need to harvest regularly to keep pea and bean plants going for longer. The reason for this is that once the pods begin to swell they begin to set their seeds. At this point, the plants concentrate their energy on the seed setting, which begins to slow down the production of new flowers and pods.
Picking Mangetout – harvest the pods while they are still very flat, before you begin to see the seeds inside. Once you begin to see the seeds forming inside the pod, they can get a little tough and stringy, and if the seeds reach pea size the plant will rapidly slow down production.
Picking Sugarsnap – we like to pick them just as they’ve begun to swell, but before the pods get fully swollen. They are crunchier, sweeter and less stringy at this stage, and of course it encourages the plant to keep producing more.
Picking Garden Peas – as these are usually picked once the pods are fully formed, some people do find they have a fairly short cropping time. To combat this, we recommend picking the pods a little before they are fully swollen, before they’ve firmed up too much, while the peas inside are still fairly young.
Picking Runner Beans – pick them every 2-3 days once the bean pods start to reach about 12cm to keep them coming longer. Remember that you can always freeze them if they are coming through faster than you can keep up.
Picking French Beans – again, pick them every 2-3 days once they start producing. Younger beans are often more tender, so pick them a little earlier than you might expect them to be if you were buying from a shop.
Harvesting Borlotti & other beans for storing – wait until the pods have swollen fully and begun to dry out at the end of summer/in autumn – once you can hear the beans inside rattling away when you shake them, they’re good to be picked and dried out further in the home. More on this in this article on harvesting borlotti.