Bean seed saving

Here it is almost Christmas, I finally finished shelling and putting away the last of my bean seeds. These are from the same plants I wrote about earlier in the gardening season.

Saving bean seeds is a lot of fun and they are just about the easiest of all seeds to save. You don’t have to pick through over-ripe fruit or worry about things like cross pollination.

Because of their structure, bean flowers are pollinated by pollen produced in that individual flower. That means it is very difficult for beans to cross-pollinate. Less than 5 percent of bean seeds end up being cross-pollinated. So, for the most part, they stay true to type and reliably produce the same type of bean year after year. Beans of this type are called “open-pollinated.”

Bean seeds come in many different colors and sizes. There are thousands of different bean varieties

Bean seeds come in many different colors and sizes. There are thousands of different bean varieties

Hybrid beans, on the other hand,  are cross-pollinated on purpose by plant breeders. The breeders maintain a special genetic family tree for each variety and use field technicians to hand pollinate each bean flower. That’s why hybrid seeds are more expensive than open-pollinated seeds.

Although hybrid bean varieties are available for gardeners to plant, they are used mostly by large scale farmers who need plants that have certain characteristics. One example is beans ripening all at the same time so the crop can be harvested by machine. Hybrid seeds are labeled with the designation “F1” either on the seed packet or in the seed catalog.

Once the first generation of hybrid seeds is grown and harvested, the next generation ends up producing plants that are no longer true to type. So, unless you just want to experiment to see what you get, don’t save seeds from a hybrid crop.

I didn’t wait this long to put away my beans on purpose, it’s just that that job kept being pushed down on my list of priorities.  There was no hurry and no harm done to the seeds . Beans need to be dry anyway before being put into storage. Since I had them spread out on a table in the house while still in their pods, they had a chance to thoroughly dry. Those extra-dry bean pods were very easy to open too.

Bean seeds have a moderate seed life, two to three years. My plan is plant them all next year, eat what I can and save the rest to plant the following year.


Bob Dluzen
As a result of being a gardener for more than 40 years, 30 of those as a professional, Bob's gardening has become an integral part of his life. "It's the ever-changing seasons and the wide variety of plants and gardens that keeps me intrigued," he says. Bob lives and gardens in rural Monroe County.