As I started this post, I realized I haven’t shared much about our bean production this year. That kind of surprised me since we grow 100-150 lbs of beans a year and spend a good part of September cleaning bean seeds.
Why don’t we catch up and first look at
- different types of bean seed
- and harvesting beans.
Then we can talk about cleaning beans seeds by
These are the same steps we use to clean brassica seeds, but the process is slightly different because of the size and weight of the beans.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF BEAN SEEDS
Stating there are different types of beans seeds can mean different things:
- It could refer to species. We do grow four main bean species: Phaseolus coccineus (runner beans), Vigna angularis (adzuki beans), Glycine Max (soybean), and Phaseolus vulgaris (the common bean).
- It could refer to variety names: Black Turtle, Painted Lady, Provider, and many more
- It could refer to color, flavor or use.
But when you’re saving seed the main distinction is whether the bean is primarily used as a dry bean, or as a fresh snap bean.
- Snap bean varieties have sweet pods that are less fibrous than dry bean pods. As these sweet pods mature, they tightly wrap themselves around the beans inside. These wrinkled pods resist shattering and are quite difficult to clean.
- Dry bean varieties have starchy pods that don’t wrinkle as they mature. When the pod is dry, a good tap will split the pod open spilling the beans.
The following photos demonstrate how we harvested and cleaned Black Coco beans – a dry bean. The same methods work for snap beans but take more time. For small batches of snap beans, it can be easiest to just shell them by hand.
Beans are ready when the pods look white and papery.
We cut the whole plant with secateurs, stuff them in bins and bring them to the greenhouse to dry. This usually happens during the first 3 weeks of September.
If most of the pods have yet to mature, we pick individual dry pods by hand so they won’t be exposed inclement weather. This is usually the case for pod beans and snap beans.
When the pods have thoroughly dried, we use people power to get the beans out of the pods and off the plants.
This can be done by bashing the plants against the side of a bin.
Or by getting ready for the tap dancing competition.
As the pods shatter we remove the empty plants and put them in the wheelbarrow. We pour the bin contents into buckets.
We wind up with a number of buckets that look like they are full of dust, sticks and bits of leaves.
When we clean light little seeds (such as brassicas), we winnow indoors where we can control the wind with fans. With heavy seeds (such as beans), we happily work outside, pouring beans from container to container.
Look at those beans go!
We winnow a few buckets into a bin.
Then winnow a few more times from bin to bin. This removes most of the chaff.
Next we pour the beans through screens.
First we use a 1/2″ screen. This removes large pieces of stems and pod pieces. After screening once, we’ll often winnow another time.
Then we use a smaller screen.
The beans don’t fit through this 1/4″ screens. Smaller pieces fall pass into the bin below.
This step removes stones and shriveled beans that would be too heavy to winnow out
We winnow the beans again and to remove any remaining big light pieces. This leaves a bunch of nice beans mixed with objects of similar size and weight (including rocks and shriveled germinated beans).
During the winter, I spread the beans out on cookie sheets and pick out bad beans and stones by hand. I do this over a couple of weeks while listening to the radio (the CBC is a constant seed cleaning companion).
Fred and I will be attending the Guelph Organic Conference from January 27-30. We will be giving a course on crop planning for vegetable growers. I will also be on a panel on farm financial sustainability and Fred will give a talk on running a cooperative farm.