Beans and peas, while different plants, have the same seed-saving technique. These plants are another one of the easiest plants to save seed from, so they’re always a good starting point for a beginner seed saver. These two plants are completely self-pollinating, and because the anthers (male) are pushed up against the female (stigma) of the flower, the vast majority of the time the flowers are pollinated before they even open. While cross-pollination due to pollinating insects isn’t unheard of, it’s rare; while it’s best to use an isolation method (see isolation methods) to have 100% surety of of seed purity, many gardeners have successfully saved seeds without the aid of isolation.
- Bean or pea plants
- Large mesh screen or newspaper
- A large area to work from
- Seed Envelopes
It’s a good idea to wait to save your seeds from beans, much the way you save summer squashes. Green beans and peas are harvested in their immature state for edible purposes. Unless you already grow beans and peas for dry edible storage, the waiting game is necessary for this one.
About six weeks after the normal green bean or fresh pea harvest, the pods will fully mature and start to turn brown. Once the pods are entirely brown, then it’s time to harvest. The pods will be completely dry to the touch. Be diligent, checking every day on their status. If left too long the pods will burst and the seed will be scattered on the ground.
If frost threatens before you pods are completely brown, there are two options:
- Rip up the whole plant and hang it upside down in a cool, dry area, or;
- Pick the mature pods from the plant, and lay them down in a single layer on sheets of newsprint or a mesh screen.
After the pods are done completely drying, open them, and separate the seeds. Any seeds that are tiny or disfigured, throw away or save for eating purposes. You want the best seed to be devoted to starting new plants in order to pass along the best genetics.
If you’re processing a large quantity of peas or beans, the best method – rather then hulling them all by hand – is to thresh them. To do this the pods still have to be attached to parts of the plant. Grab the stalks, and bang them against a (clean and empty!) garbage can. This will open the pods and leave the beans at the bottom of the can. To use this method, the pods have to be dried.
After you have separated all your seed, if they still feel even the slightest bit damp, let them dry on your newsprint/mesh for a few more days. You can tell they’re ready for storage by biting down on them. If you can’t dent them with your teeth – they’re completely dry. If you can dent them, they need more drying time.
Next package them in an envelope. Weevils can sometimes make themselves known in dried beans weeks after the harvest. In order to kill off any potential eggs, place your seed envelope in the fridge for one week to transition them to cool storage. After a week, transfer them into the freezer. After two weeks in the freezer, put them back in the fridge for a week. You can leave them there, or remove them and keep them in standard storage. This will ensure that any potential bugs don’t hatch and eat your seed supply.
Paper envelopes are best for bean and pea seeds to allow respiration. If you have a large quantity, store in glass jars. Place your seeds in a cool, dry area.