Image by Andrea Parrish
By Amy Grant
Beans, glorious beans! Second only to the tomato as the most popular home garden crop, warm loving bean seeds can be saved for the following season’s garden. Originating in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica, beans are generally classified by their growth habit and nearly all varieties may be saved via seed for future use.
Any number of vegetable and fruit seeds may be salvaged from the parent plant for future sowing; however, tomatoes, peppers, beans and peas are the simplest, requiring no special treatment before storing. This is because bean plants and the like are self-pollinating. When encountering plants that cross-pollinate, the strain of the seed may become tainted from a different cultivar miles away, resulting in a seed that is less desirable than the parent plant.
Seeds taken from cucumbers, melons, squash, pumpkins and gourds are all cross-pollinated by insects, which may affect the quality of the successive plants grown from these seeds.
How to Save Bean Seeds
Harvesting of bean pods for seeds is easy. The key to saving bean seeds is to allow the pods to ripen on the plant until dried and beginning to brown. The seeds will loosen up and can be heard rattling around inside the pod when shaken. This process may take a month or so past the point of a normal harvest for eating purposes.
Once the pods have dried on the plant, this is when to harvest bean seeds. Remove the pods from the plants and lay them out to dry inside for at least two weeks. After the two weeks have passed following the harvesting of bean pods, shell the beans or you can leave the seeds within the pods until the planting season.
Bean Seed Storage
When storing seeds, place in a tightly sealed glass jar or other container. Different varieties of beans may be stored together but wrapped in individual paper packages and clearly labeled with their name, variety and collection date. Your bean seeds should stay cool and dry (32-41 degrees Fahrenheit). The refrigerator is a perfect place for bean seed storage.
In order to keep the bean seeds from absorbing too much moisture and, thereby, molding, a little bit of silica gel can be added to the container. Silica gel is used for drying flowers and can be obtained in bulk from a craft supply store.
Powdered milk is another option in utilizing as a desiccant. One to two tablespoons of powdered milk wrapped in a piece of cheesecloth or tissue will continue to absorb moisture from the bean seed container for about six months.
When saving bean seeds, use open-pollinated varieties rather than hybrids. Often called “heirlooms,” open-pollinated plants have traits passed down from the parent plant which tend to bear similar fruit and set seed that result in similar plants. Make sure to choose seeds from the parent plant that derive from the most vigorous, best tasting specimen in your garden.