Bean busy

Collecting and storing beans of Climbing Bean 'Borlotto Lingua di Fuoco' - Firetongue - © GAP Photos

Collecting and storing beans of Climbing Bean ‘Borlotto Lingua di Fuoco’ – Firetongue – © GAP Photos

Collecting your own veg seed is a great way to save money on the plot. Ordering varieties to feed your family can quickly mount up costs, and selecting home-grown seeds from plants grown in your garden conditions will naturally provide you with progeny that are more likely to thrive in the locality. Some crops are simpler to save than others, and beans are a great example of the ideal beginner’s crop. Only save from open-pollinated plants (not F1 hybrids) and when picking pods, opt for those that are from the middle of your batch of plants. These measures help to ensure the variety remains true to type.

Phaseolus coccineus 'Best of All' - Drying runner beans on wire rack to be used as seed next spring - © Maxine Adcock/GAP Photos

Phaseolus coccineus ‘Best of All’ – Drying runner beans on wire rack to be used as seed next spring – © Maxine Adcock/GAP Photos

Allow a few unblemished pods to dry on your chosen plants. Runners, broad and French beans can all be saved. Ensure the plant itself is healthy and showing characteristics that you want to preserve.

Drying beans, harvest, 'Maderia Maroon' climbing french beans - © FhF Greenmedia/GAP Photos

Drying beans, harvest, ‘Maderia Maroon’ climbing french beans – © FhF Greenmedia/GAP Photos

Lay the pods out on a tray and position this in a dry, airy spot. Slatted wooden or seed trays are ideal, placed on the staging of a greenhouse. Turn the pods every few days to ensure they dry evenly.

Potting bench with saved broad bean seeds 'Purple Flowered' - © Gary Smith/GAP Photos

Potting bench with saved broad bean seeds ‘Purple Flowered’ – © Gary Smith/GAP Photos

Once fully dry and brittle, you can shuck the seeds from their pods. Small quantities are best done by hand to avoid damaging the beans. Pick over the seeds and remove any that are small, disfigured or otherwise flawed.

Step by step for growing Borlotto 'Firetongue' beans - storing dried beans for following year - © GAP Photos

Step by step for growing Borlotto ‘Firetongue’ beans – storing dried beans for following year – © GAP Photos

Once removed from their shells, the beans can be stored in airtight jars. Being large seeds, they’ll remain viable for 2-4 years so it’s a good habit to save seeds annually. Adding desiccant to the jars prolongs the seeds’ life.

Phaseolus coccineus, various varieties of runner beans - stored in CD envelopes - © Gary Smith/GAP Photos

Phaseolus coccineus, various varieties of runner beans – stored in CD envelopes – © Gary Smith/GAP Photos

Alternative your bean seeds can be stored in paper envelopes – here, we’ve used old CD holders. Label with the variety and date collected, then place the packets in an airtight tin with desiccant.