Posted on

easy peezy seeds

Easy peezy seeds
Black Valentine – dwarf variety

Easy peasy seed saving – French beans

In this series, we discuss how to save your own organic seeds. Once you dip into the seed saving world, you realise how satisfying and easy it can be. Tomatoes, peas and French beans, for instance, are a great place to start. Not only are you keeping yourself in organic produce, year on year – you’re also saving money!

We also look at some of the wonderful heritage varieties available. If taste and individuality are your aims, then why not support our Heritage Seed Library? We conserve many varieties that are no longer widely available. Often they are rejected as ‘uncommercial’. Many are local, such as the Stafford broad bean, Stoke lettuce and English Winter Leamington cauliflower.

Year on year, HSL staff continue the growing cycle of seed to plant, harvest to seed, ensuring that these old heritage varieties don’t disappear.

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Heritage Seed Library, it costs just an additional £1.50 a month, on top of your Garden Organic membership. In doing so, you will be supporting our vital work of maintaining rare heritage plants – and you can choose up to 6 packets of seed free each year!

How easy is it to save seeds?

With some vegetables, such as tomatoes and peas, it is very simple and you save seeds from ripened fruit each year.

With others, such as runner (not French) beans and pumpkins, you need to be a bit careful to prevent any cross-pollination from other plants to keep your own variety pure. If, for instance, your runner bean flower is pollinated by a bee from your neighbour’s plants (which are a different type of runner bean) you cannot predict what sort of bean you will grow next year. It could be a mix of the two. To help you, read more in our Seed Saving Guidelines.

So, let’s start with the easy peasy seed savers:

French Bean Phaseolus vulgaris

A healthy bean plant will provide many, many pods which you can keep picking. Eaten in the green pod, or dried, beans provide a variety of dishes and a good source of protein. French beans can either be dwarf or climbing varieties, and come in many different colours – from green, white and yellow to deep purple. The beans (seeds) inside are often beautiful – from rosy pink to deepest black, and a rich mix of markings. Unlike runner beans, they rarely run the risk of cross pollination.

Harvesting

Ideally, the pods should be dried on the vines but if bad weather threatens, uproot the plants and hang them upside down somewhere warm until the pods are completely dry.

Next steps ….

  1. It is best to pod beans by hand; reject any with atypical markings to keep your variety pure.
  2. Then set the beans out to dry further, somewhere warm and dry, but don’t allow them to get too hot.
  3. If you notice little holes in the beans, these are caused by a small weevil. It is best to destroy these beans, as the weevil may have eaten the germinating part of the seed.
  4. French bean seeds should last in cool, dry storage for at least 3 years

See here for a simple guide on how to grow French beans.

Heritage Varieties

These beauties are available exclusively to HSL members. If you are interested in becoming a member of the Heritage Seed Library, it costs just an additional £1.50 a month, on top of your Garden Organic membership.

Black Valentine – dwarf variety

One of our oldest varieties, possibly known since the 1850s. Pretty lilac flowers turn into straight, slender, stringless pencil pods. The jet-black seeds are very good for drying. It is attractive, very prolific, yet neat and tidy.

Uplands – dwarf variety

These beans are named after the Uplands Allotments in Handsworth, Birmingham, where they have been grown for many years, although they originate from Italy. Sturdy and compact plants (30-40cm) produce pale pink flowers and short straight pods. Growers have described them as extremely tough, surviving hot and dry as well as cool and wet. They also seem unattractive to slugs.” The plump beans are ideal for drying.

Major Cook’s Bean – climbing variety

This bean produces pretty purple-violet flowers followed by a huge crop of tender, stringless beans with a very fine flavour. It probably originally developed in Southampton in about 1900, by experimental horticulturist Alderman Vokes (the eponymous Major Cook’s grandfather.) It was passed to our donor’s grandfather, by Major Cook in 1960s as they both worked with The Commonwealth War Graves Commission in France. Major Cook was always a keen gardener, growing prize-winning vegetables with his grandfather and was trained at Kew before serving in the Middle East during WWII.

Mrs Fortune’s – climbing variety

Doris Fortune acquired these beans from the retired Head Gardener at Windsor. Prolific and tall (2-2.5m) with pale blue flowers, this bean has smooth green and blue mottled pods, which darken when mature. Stringless and tender, they can be eaten whole, or used dried. It is claimed to be one of the most reliable cropping and tasty beans in the HSL Collection.

Did you know …..

  • A serving (125gms) of boiled green beans contains 2.4gms of protein and 20% of the recommended daily vitamin C allowance.
  • Eating beans ‘in the green’ is a relatively new phenomenon. Up until the end of the 19th century it was more usual to store and eat dried beans.
  • Tinned baked beans are predominantly haricot beans – a type of French bean.
  • Beans can cause an increase in flatulence. This is due to the fermentation of the polysaccharides in the large intestines. Cooking the beans for longer will prevent the flatulence, but reduces the bean’s protein content.

Easy peezy seeds
With some vegetables, such as tomatoes and peas, it is very simple and you save seeds from ripened fruit each year.

Easy peasy seed saving – peas

In this series, we discuss how to save your own organic seeds. Once you dip into the seed saving world, you realise how satisfying and easy it can be. Tomatoes, peas and French beans, for instance, are a great place to start. Not only are you keeping yourself in organic produce, year on year – you’re also saving money!

We also look at some of the wonderful heritage varieties available. If taste and individuality are your aims, then why not support our Heritage Seed Library? We conserve many varieties that are no longer widely available. Often they are rejected as ‘uncommercial’. Many are local, such as the Stafford broad bean, Stoke lettuce and English Winter Leamington cauliflower.

Year on year, HSL staff continue the growing cycle of seed to plant, harvest to seed, ensuring that these old heritage varieties don’t disappear.

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Heritage Seed Library, it costs just an additional £1.50 a month, on top of your Garden Organic membership. In doing so, you will be supporting our vital work of maintaining rare heritage plants – and you can choose up to 6 packets of seed free each year!

How easy is it to save seeds?

With some vegetables, such as tomatoes and peas, it is very simple and you save seeds from ripened fruit each year.

With others, such as runner beans and pumpkins, you need to be a bit careful to prevent any cross-pollination from other plants to keep your own variety pure. If, for instance, your runner bean flower is pollinated by a bee from your neighbour’s plants (which are a different type of runner bean) you cannot predict what sort of bean you will grow next year. It could be a mix of the two. To help you, read more in our Seed Saving Guidelines.

So, let’s start with the easy peasy seed savers:

Peas Pisum Sativum

Peas are so easy to sow and grow – even a bag of dried ones from the supermarket will probably germinate. But why not save your own organic ones? First sow them thickly, and gradually thin by cutting and eating the superfluous green shoots in salads. Leave the remaining plants to grow bushy and you will be picking pea pods throughout the summer. Keep some on the plant to dry, and you’ll have your own supply to plant next year.

Harvesting

Peas mature very quickly and can be left on the vine to dry. If there is a risk of frost to a crop that is almost mature, lift the entire plants and hang them inside somewhere warm until the pods are completely dried.

Next steps ….

  1. Pop the peas (seeds) out of the pod by hand.
  2. Lay them out to dry further and remove any that are damaged or discoloured.
  3. Store in a cool, dry place. Pea seeds should last in storage for at least three years.

See here for a simple guide on how to grow peas.

Heritage Varieties

These beauties are available exclusively to HSL members. If you are interested in becoming a member of the Heritage Seed Library, it costs just an additional £1.50 a month, on top of your Garden Organic membership.

Champion of England

This English marrowfat pea was bred in 1843 as ‘Fairbeards’ Champion of England’ and was judged the best pea by the Journal of Horticulture in 1876. Opinion is unanimous on this one – it’s big (over 1.8m) and needs strong support. The pods are large, with 8-9 sweet and delicious peas packed into each one.

Clarke’s Beltony Blue

Donated by Mrs Anderson, this heirloom variety has been grown on her great grandfather’s farm in Co. Tyrone since at least 1850 (but possibly as far back as 1815). This tall (around 160cm), prolific and vigorous pea produces beautiful pale pink and rich maroon flowers followed by a heavy crop of purple pods. Sweet and smooth flavour.

Robinson

Our donor has been growing these since the 1950s, after acquiring seeds from a Mr Robinson, who had obtained them in Scotland. The vigorous plants (>2m) produce long, slim, slightly curved pods over a long season. Extraordinarily sweet, retaining their flavour even when frozen. Garden Organic Trustee, Adam Alexander, says, “The finest pea I grow.”

Tutankhamun

Thought to originate from the garden of Lord Carnarvon at Highclere Castle, Berkshire – who, along with Howard Carter, discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in November 1922. Could this variety be a descendant of the peas allegedly taken from the tomb? A tall pea (1.5-1.8m) that produces its white flowers and pods of sweet tasting peas at the top of the plants, making them easy to pick.

Did you know …..

  • There are three different types of peas. Smooth-seeded peas are starchier and hardier than wrinkled-seeded peas; peas in an edible pod are more commonly known as sugar peas or mangetouts.
  • Pea flowers are self-pollinating. The flowers open early in the morning and do not shut. The anthers shed pollen the night before the flower opens, but they need ‘shaking’ to reach the stigma. This is usually done by the wind.
  • Delicate green peas were introduced to the court of Louis XIV of France in January 1660, where they became the rage of all the French aristocrats. Before that, dried ‘field’ peas were eaten throughout Europe.