How to save bean seeds in 3 easy steps

September 14, 2020

How to save bean seeds from your garden: shake, rattle and store!

Image of saving your bean seeds. Close up on a hand holding open a dry seed pod. The pod is cracked along the seam, revealing four, two-toned bean seeds. The seeds have a cow pattern-like speckling on them.

After a long summer of fresh bean harvests, it’s time to start thinking about saving some of your seeds for next year. Maybe your garden looks like an untamed bean jungle; that’s ok!

Saving your own bean seeds is very easy. Here’s everything you need to know about saving your bean seeds to replant next year.

Why saving your own seeds?

Saving seeds from beans you grew in your own garden not only allows you to save money, but it also means the beans you grow each year will be adapted to your very own environment. This means that the plants are more likely to be resilient to diseases and pests, and adapted to the climate in which they have been used to growing in.

Plants put a lot of energy into making sure their offspring (seeds) will survive and thrive. Luckily, when it comes to saving bean seeds, nature does most of the work for you. If you were to do nothing to your bean plants all summer, by fall they would still likely be covered in ripe, swelling seed pods.

How to save your bean seeds in 3 easy steps:

1. Start by choosing a few bean pods from healthy plants. You want to make sure your plant is healthy. Saving seeds from a sick plant will likely mean that the seed will carry some of that disease too. Choose a few of your best looking bean pods and DON’T eat them. Let them stay on the bush or vine and wait until they are dry and brown.

2. Once dry, the pods should turn golden/brown. Give the pods a shake; when fully mature, bean seeds will rattle inside the pods. This means they are ready to be collected and stored. If your area is too humid or the weather is too wet for the beans to dry outdoors and you notice your beans aren’t dry before the first frost, cut the whole plant or pull it up by the roots and hang it upside down indoors in a well ventilated area. Again, allow them to dry until the seeds rattle in the pods when you shake them. The drying process may take several days or weeks depending on your location

3. Crack the dry pods open and remove the seeds. If the seeds are too hard to dent with a fingernail, they are ready to store. Store the seeds in a paper envelope, bag or jar. But avoid plastic bags as they can promote rot. Once the seeds are stored in their vessel, don’t forget to write the variety’s name and year of harvest. Store your saved seeds in a dark, dry, cool place.

That’s it! Your seeds are ready to be replant next year or the years after. Bean seeds can usually be saved for up to 3 to 5 years.

Where do your beans come from? - dry bean pods in a pile. One is cracked open revealing deep red bean seeds.

Want to learn a bit more about bean seed saving? Watch this video with Tegan Wong-Daugherty of the Knowlesville Art and Nature Centre in Knowlesville, New Brunswick reviewing the basics of bean seed saving, including isolation distances, harvesting and storage tips and more!

If you don’t plant them, eat them!

Dried beans make an excellent winter food. They require reconstituting with water and longer cooking times before eating but provide an excellent source of protein in stews, soups and classic baked bean dishes.

Any you don’t cook can be replanted in your garden in the spring for a new supply of fresh beans!

Happy seed saving!