Beans are one of the easiest of garden plants for saving seed. They are also one of the most gratifying, as the seed is large, often colorful and easy to grow. Many would be seed savers don’t know how to save bean seed, which is unfortunate, as it isn’t very hard.
If you leave bean pods on the plants to dry, the resulting seed will usually work for planting.
This is the most basic fact needed in order to save bean seed successfully. Here, where we live and garden, there is actually enough time to plant a second crop from seed saved from the early spring planting. Many times I find seedlings under my old bean plants. They sprouted from pods which formed, matured and shattered before I could get to them.
Once pods begin to yellow and dry down, you can pick them, and dry them for seed.
You don’t need to leave pods on the vines until they are crispy dry. In some climates this may not even be possible, as late rains come, and stay, causing the pods to produce seed damaging mold. If necessary you can even pick pods which have half way developed seed, dry them. That immature seed will probably be viable. Keep in mind, however, if the seed isn’t fully developed, it won’t last long in storage.
Dry mature seed fully before freezing.
Even seed which appears to be dry may retain enough moisture to destroy it, if it is stored in a closed jar. There are ways to tell if the seed is fully dry. I find it easiest to simply to leave my seed crop indoors, in an open container for at least a month before sealing it in anything air tight.
Once properly dried, bean seed will maintain its viability for 4 years at room temperature.
This is good enough for most people. If possible try to store the seed away from light and any heat source. This will prolong its vitality. One can seal bean seed in an air tight container and store it in the freezer for decades.But BEWARE, if you freeze seed before it is completely dry, you may completely kill it. Even if it looks okay, it won’t germinate. Also, when taking seed out of a frozen container, it is crucially important to let the entire container warm to room temperature before opening it. To do otherwise will invite condensation and possible destruction of the seed. This is the voice of experience!
Even if you only want to save the seed for next year, be sure to freeze it sometime before the new year.
All bean seed comes with eggs of the weevil, an insect pest. Weevils lay their eggs under the skin of the seed before it dries. If you store fresh dried seed without eliminating weevil eggs, those little buggers will hatch out sometime after Christmas and destroy your seed.
The best solution for weevils is to freeze your seed before storage. Just be absolutely sure that the seed is fully dry before freezing. I once destroyed two quarts of an extremely rare bean, by freezing it when it appeared be be dry but really wasn’t.
If you have had a garden this year, you may now have dried pods on some of your bean plants.
If you do, why not try saving some seed?