FRENCH BEANS – Dwarf or Climbing
As the HSL say – “Different varieties have been selected to be eaten at different stages; immature pods of green beans, fresh swollen seeds (often called haricots) removed from their pods, and dried mature beans. Some are stringy, others stringless. The colour of the pods varies from yellow through to green and purple, and some are beautifully marked.”
The seeds themselves are also different shapes, colours and sizes – from mottled pink, to black, brown, white or a mixture.The flowers are perfect, self-compatible and predominantly selfpollinating.
From my own research / experience I’ve learnt that some beans can cross pollinate easily – namely Runner Beans, Butter Beans, and Broad Beans. So these notes only apply to French Beans – I plan to add details of how to save seeds from these later on.
How to grow and save seed –
- French beans being grown for seed should be grown as you would for a normal crop. However, you should give them as long a growing season as possible to allow the pods to mature and dry, so early sowing and plantings are best.
- It is important to grow some bean plants specifically for seed, rather than just collecting the left-over pods at the end of the season. Any plants that aren’t as healthy looking or as true to type should not be used for seed saving.
- As French beans are inbreeders (that is, they self-pollinate), you can save seed
from just a few plants. It is better, though, if you grow as many plants as
possible so as to select the best for seed saving. HSL recommend around 20
plants per variety.
- Some plants may produce noticeably different foliage or pods from the majority of the plants; seed should not be saved from these.
- French beans are easily harvested when dry. The pods should be dried on the vines but if bad weather is forecasted or frost predicted, uproot the plants and hang them upside down somewhere warm until the pods are completely dry, or
- In wet weather, collect the pods individually, then spread them out somewhere out of the rain with a good airflow until the pods are fully dry and brittle. I did this last year, and put the bean pods in trays, with a label, indoors and left them to dry. The drying process took getting on for a month. The pods are very crinkly and dry when properly dried.
- A good tip is that the beans should be dry enough that they break when you bite on them, rather than leaving a dent.
- Store in an airtight container. If they are well dried, and stored in a cool dark place, the beans will last around 3 years.
You may notice small holes in the beans. These are caused by bean weevil. The advice from Real Seeds is that if you have problems with weevils eating your seeds, put the sealed container in the freezer for a week immediately after drying the beans; this will kill any insect eggs before they hatch. When you take them out, let the container come up to room temperature before opening it, otherwise the beans will absorb moisture from the air.