The Great Bean Adventure Saving Seeds for Baker Creek

Reader Contribution by Ben Cohen
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Of all the exciting things that happened this year at our Small House, the most exciting for me was joining Baker Creek Seed Co.’s “Gardens Across America” project. Baker Creek put the project together in an effort to connect the many heirloom vegetable growers and seed savers across the nation and create an open network of communication and idea sharing. It has also allowed us the opportunity to become a seed grow-out location for their company, which is an amazing honor to say the least!

When I first received the letter from Baker Creek’s Joseph Simcox, I was pretty much floored! The “Indiana Jones” of seeds himself had sent me a handwritten letter welcoming me to the world of seed saving and with the letter came six small ziploc bags. Each one with the name and original location of the seed hand written across the plastic. It was so surreal it was almost like a dream.

Letter from Joseph Simcox

Luckily for me he had sent six different varieties of beans to grow. There’s nothing much easier to grow than beans! So, unless something terrible were to happen, there was basically no way I could mess this up, and just as easy as growing the plants is harvesting its seeds. Just leave them hanging on the plants until the leaves have yellowed and the bean pods have dried and turned brittle. Then all you need to do is break them open and collect your precious seeds. The process is the same for dry beans that you plan to store for the kitchen.

Black Bean Sprout

A growing black bean pod.

We planted our beans in various locations around the homestead back in June. Before I started planting I spent a little time researching bean pollination and the likelihood of cross pollination in our varieties. I learned that cross pollination in bush beans is very unlikely even if planted in rows right next to each other. It turns out that beans are self pollinating and tend to drop their pollen before the sun comes up. We’re working on a 3.5-acre homestead so I was thankful to learn that this wouldn’t be an issue for us.

It’s now mid-September and our plants are finally starting to turn yellow and dry. I haven’t watered them in more than a month, but we’ve had enough rainfall to keep them happy. Another thing that’s nice about growing out beans for seeds is that harvest time is a laid-back event. While other plants need to be pulled at just the right time to maximize flavor or store-ability, beans on the other hand just hang around and wait. As long as there isn’t rain in the forecast, you can harvest your beans when it’s convenient for you.

We had quite a bit of success growing out these rare beans varieties for Baker Creek, and we’ll be harvesting a bumper crop of seeds in the next couple of weeks. After I pack up their 50 percent and set some seeds aside for growing next year, it looks like I might have to dig out a cook book and find something to do with all of these beans!

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