The Gateway Crop to Seed Saving!
They are beautiful, easy to grow and easy to save seed. What a wonderful place to start. Beans are easy because they are mostly self fertile, and so isolation from other varieties is less of a concern, and because when growing dry beans as a crop, the harvest is also the seed. Make sure to wait to harvest the beans until the pods are dry and brittle on the vine and select seed from the healthiest plants and the largest, earliest and healthiest beans, and you are bound for success in seed saving.
I love the plants and the flowers, but mostly I love the shiny jewel seeds that pop out of the pods at harvest. I find Scarlet Runner Beans, with their big, bright mottled pink seeds to be satisfying in so many ways. Eat them as green beans when they are young and tender, shelling beans fresh out of the pod, and mostly as dry beans, saved for winter soups and tortillas. They are delicious and nutritious and a little less work, due to their large size.
Plant beans direct in late spring when the soil warms, Mayish. Runner beans mature later than bush beans, so give them a good running start, but after it warms up. It is recommended to separate different bean varieties to avoid crossing but beans are mostly self pollinating and it has been my experience that they seem to remain true to type even when shamelessly planted all hodge-podge together. (Though I have seen a bit of crossing with the runner beans.) Give your runner beans a good trellis and they will climb high. (Bamboo teepees, T-poles with string, a fence..) Keep the soil moist while the baby beans are sprouting and irrigate when needed in summer.
To save seed, again, wait to harvest the beans when the pods are dry and brittle on the vine and select seed from the healthiest plants and the largest, earliest and healthiest beans. Dry thoroughly (in a paper bag in the sun or by the wood stove or in a gas oven off with the door cracked). Shuck before or after drying (in front of a good movie). Bean seed is dry enough to store when your tooth doesn’t make a dent in it while biting it.
Store in a glass jar in a cool, dark place. Label with year and type. Bean seed should stay viable for 3-5 years (or more). Share and Replant. “Magic Beans” make great gifts.
Contributed by Terri Wilde a homesteader, herbalist, community organizer, seed saver. Hawthorn Hearth Homestead