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Saving Pea and Bean Seeds

Snow pea seedsOne of the biggest risks when saving seeds in a diverse garden is unintentional hybridization.  Say you're growing two varieties of okra relatively close together, the way we did last year.  If you try to save the seeds from those okra plants, bees will have moved pollen between the two varieties, and you'll end up with a mixture of different types of okra when you sprout your saved seeds.  None of the offspring of the cross-pollinated okra will look like either parent, and chances are most of them will be substandard.

Luckily for us, some vegetables are primarily self-pollinating, so they don't have the hybridization problem.  Peas and beans are two of the easiest self-pollinating varieties for beginning seed savers since you can usually plant different varieties right next door to each other and still have each variety breed true (meaning that the seeds sprout into plants just like the parents.)

The actual process of saving pea and bean seeds is also simple.  Some people set aside a whole row just for the purpose, but I don't go to all that trouble.  I inevitably miss picking some pods on each pea plant, and by the time I find them the pods are too woody and old to be tasty.  Alternatively, with my bush beans, I pick the first heavy flush of beans, then let the next flush go to seed.  In either case, I let the pods ripen on the vine for a month or two until the pods turn brown and dry up.  Then I pick all of the dried pods, shell out the peas and beans, and put them in a bowl or open jar to finish drying for a few weeks.  When I stumble across the seeds again, they're ready to be sealed in homemade paper packets, or just sealed into a canning jar.  Don't forget to label the variety and year!

This post is part of our Seed Saving lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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