Colleen Vanderlinden

DCL

My garden wouldn't be complete without beans. They're not as exciting as tomatoes, but there are few things fresher-tasting than a small, tender green bean picked straight from the garden. And if you've ever had the pleasure of weeding around bush beans in bloom, you know that there are few aromas on Earth that can match it. I'm still on the lookout for Black Turtle Bean Blossom perfume. If you find any, let me know.

Anyway. Saving seeds from beans is so simple that I don't even really have to try. You'll see what I mean in just a minute. First, let's talk beans.

Common Types of Beans

Typically, we grow four basic types of beans in our gardens. They are:

- String beans

- Wax beans

- Lima beans

- Dry beans

The categories aren't exclusive (for example, many string beans are also beans you can let mature to become dry beans) but for our purposes, these will do. String beans are the typical "green beans" we are all used to seeing. Wax beans are generally yellow and have a really wonderful texture. Lima beans, bane of children everywhere, are delicious when picked fresh from the garden and prepared properly. And dry beans are those that you can typically find in the grocery store in large bags: black beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, etc.

Saving Bean Seeds

When you're saving bean seeds, all you're really doing is allowing your beans to fully mature on the vine. All beans, eventually, become large, hard beans. This is what you plant in the garden. And when I say that it's ridiculously easy, I mean it. Generally, I end up missing a few beans when I'm harvesting, and when I do find them, they're too large and tough to eat. So I let those beans continue to grow to full size. By the end of the season, the pods turn light brown, and, if you shake them, you can usually hear the dry beans rattling inside. When this happens, remove the pod from the plant, open it up, and remove the dry beans. Set the beans on a plate or screen for a day or so to be sure that they are completely dry before storing them. Once they're dry, put them into a labeled envelope or container and store them in a cool, dark place.

Tips for Saving Beans

- Choose beans from plants that are strong, prolific, and disease-free. Remember: healthy plants = healthy seeds = healthy plants next year.

- Only save those dry beans that are large in size, smooth, and whole. Don't save seeds that are smaller than the others, wrinkly, or broken.

- Only save seeds from heirloom, open-pollinated beans. Hybrids won't come true from seed.

More: Organic Gardening