Pinto Beans & Composting

by Fred Decker, Demand Media
    Bean vines and pods can be composted, as well as the beans themselves.

    Bean vines and pods can be composted, as well as the beans themselves.

    Pinto beans are one of the great staples of Mexican and Mexican-influenced cuisine. Their mellow flavor and delicate tan color provide a neutral base for the bold flavors and vivid colors of a variety of dishes. Like other plant-based foods, pinto beans also represent a potential source of compost for the garden. Beans compost readily, though they might require special treatment.

    Growing Your Own

    If you grow your own pinto beans, the plants' lush growth of vines and leaves will provide a great deal of material for your compost pile. Allow the beans to dry on their vines until there's a risk of damage from frost or rain. Once the beans have been harvested, pull the vines and chop them coarsely, then add them to your compost (see References 1). The pods can be added as well, once the beans have been shucked for drying.

    Stale Beans

    Although dried beans seldom spoil unless they become wet, they don't necessarily remain pleasant to eat. As food-science writer Harold McGee points out, old beans take longer to cook than fresh beans and may never soften enough to become edible (see References 2). If you find you have pinto beans that have passed this point, they can be composted (see References 3). Pinto beans are a seed, and even very old ones might surprise you by sprouting. To avoid this, soak the beans overnight and chop them in a food processor before composting them.

    Leftover Beans

    Sometimes, fridge-cleaning day brings unhappy surprises. In most cases, you can compost leftover pinto beans that didn't get eaten. As with other kitchen scraps, there is a risk that they'll attract pests (see References 4), so bury any cooked beans at least 6 inches and preferably 10 to 12 inches beneath the surface of the pile (see References 3).

    When Not to Compost

    Some municipalities, such as Portland, Oregon, discourage residents from composting beans because of their potential to attract pests (see References 4). To minimize this risk, don't compost beans that have begun to rot or grow mold in your refrigerator; their strong odor is more likely to draw vermin. The Environmental Protection Agency advises against composting food wastes containing meats, animal fats or oils for similar reasons (see References 5). If your beans were cooked with pork, lard, vegetable oil or similar ingredients, they shouldn't be composted.

    References

    About the Author

    Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer who has written and blogged on food-related topics since 2007. Previously he sold computers, insurance and mutual funds. He is a former columnist for the Saint John, New Brunswick "Telegraph-Journal," and has been published in Canada's "Hospitality and Foodservice" magazine as well as online on many high-profile websites. Decker was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

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