By Umar Nsubuga
At 50-55 days, fry picking should be done. This involves randomly selecting and picking pods from across the garden to assess their quality – size and packability.
Isaac Malinga, a famous farmer and exporter of French beans says this crop is grown for the fresh market and processing.
He says French beans are usually picked while still immature and while the inner beans are just beginning to form in the pod.
“Pod diameter, not length, is the best indicator of quality,” he says.
According to Malinga, buyers prefer pods with no bulge or only a slight bulge, indicating tender, young seeds.
Over-mature snap beans with bulging pods are tough and fibrous, while immature pods are more susceptible to wilting.
Malinga says freshness is evidenced by a distinct, audible snap when the bean is broken.
Malinga says harvesting is done in crates, and two people can cover one bed from either side. After plucking, the crates are assembled and kept in a shade – a charcoal cooler or cold room.
When harvesting, Malinga says pick the pod from the stock (off the stem) to avoid injury and fungi infection.
“Morning to midday is the best time to pick the pods so that their freshness is preserved under the cool weather,” he advises.
The crops must be watered after picking so that they regenerate and get ready for the next picking which is done at an interval of two days for a full month.
The residue (leftover crop) can be fed to animals or used to make compost. Traceability is key when harvesting to manage infections. That is the reason it is advisable to plant in blocks.
According to Malinga, harvesting is usually done twice a week for the fine beans and three times a week for the extra fine beans.
This continues for around three weeks. A major setback is rejection of your produce if they do not meet the set quality standards. You end up regretting why you even thought of the idea.
Extra fine pods: These are very tender, turgid, seedless, with no strings, and free from any defects. The width of the pods (maximum diameter) should be less than 6mm and the minimum length of 10cm. 2).
Fine pods: These may have small seeds and be short with soft strings, be turgid and tender. The width of the pods should be between 6-9mm while the length of 12-l4cm is recommended.
Bobby Bean: These comprise those which do not qualify for inclusion in the higher classes but satisfy the minimum requirements specified above. Beans should be reasonably tender and seeds should not be too large.