Re: Question about how to save legume seeds #NewSeedLibrary #SeedSaving #SeedQuality #NativeSeeds #ResilientGardens

Elizabeth Johnson

I grow several varieties of lima, fava, garbanzo, and common beans almost every year.

For fava beans, I only grow one variety in one plot at a time for saving seeds.  They are self-pollinating but the flowers are gorgeous and attract lots of pollinators so I split them for grows in three small plots that are available for my use.  Two of the plots are significantly isolated so I can save at least two varieties a year, planted in fall and harvested in May where I live in California.

Lima Beans:  Love them!  And grow for dry beans.  So far, I’ve had no issues growing three or four varieties in my 400 sq ft garden, separating them at least 10’ from each other like common beans.  I have five favorites, pole type, and like to include at least one new variety each year to trial, though I try to be careful regarding the common lima disease that would contaminate my soil.  To that point, this year is a rest year.

Garbanzo beans:  If you have ever eaten fresh green garbanzo beans, you know what I’m talking about!  Yum.  Well, I’ve grown a number of varieties, including the big tan ones you see in cans, black, brown, red, and green.  Kabuli and Desi.  Big tan & big black are kabuli and the others usually desi, smaller & probably more ancient, from the Middle East (Syria) to India.  Isolation is recommended but as with other beans, I’ve grown them 5’-10’ apart with no apparent crossing.  

Common beans:  10’ minimum distance from each other.  Sometimes you might see a change, but overall, saving for trait preservation is super easy.

Tepary beans:  One variety at a time, mostly for space issues, but I don’t keep them going every year, just once every few years.

Soy beans:  I grow them now and then, but other than a couple edamame sessions, they are not a staple for me, just an experiment/experience.

Peas:  I don’t worry about cross-pollination.  Last year I grew a variety (mis-labeled) from a long time bean guy/horticulturist.  It produced quite delicious mature brown peas, also edible flattish pods when young, grew to about 7’, and provided super abundant biomass.  I’ve never seen or eaten sweet fresh brown peas before!

In a growing season, I map out distances and alternate species so that they stay happy.  Research last year said that soybeans originated from the common bean line, long long ago, but they do share some genetic traits.  Black tepary beans may also share some common bean traits, allowing them to cross on very rare occasions.

Hope this helps.


On Aug 11, 2020, at 8:54 AM, Rebecca Newburn <rebeccanewburn@...> wrote:

Peas and beans (except favas and runners) are extremely self-fertile, which means they tend to pollinate themselves. So cross-pollination would be low even if planted close together.

Mendel's choice of peas to do his research was great because they are extremely self-fertile. He had to manually remove the male parts and hand-pollinate. I spoke with plant breeder Alan Kapuler (a.k.a. Mushroom) of Peace Seeds who actively breeds peas a few years ago because I wanted to do a pea breeding project with my middle school students. (Check out some of his offerings at Peace Seeds.) He said peas are a total pain to work with because they are self-fertile and you have to work with those small flower bits to cross. Here's a little education video about peas and genetics from TedEd. 

Peas and justice,

On Tue, Aug 11, 2020 at 8:40 AM ghgiaoer <grimcat23@...> wrote:
Legume seeds!

My question is about how to make sure that I am correctly preserving the variety. 

I understand that I need to isolate fava but as far as other members of the legume family I am seeing mixed things. One site said that they are all self fertile and so they always save true but Mendel seems to have found otherwise at least for peas? 

Just to make sure we are talking about the same thing, 

fava Vicia faba
peas  Pisum sativum and P s var
beans phaseolus vulgaris 
field/crowder peas Vigna unguiculata
chickpea Cicer arietinum
winged bean Psophocarpus tetragonolobus
soybean glycine max
asparagus bean Vigna unguiculata ssp. sesquipedalis
hyacinth bean etc Phaseolus coccineus

What has me concerned is that they don't keep fertile for very many years, so the schedule is looking tight. I'm trying to steward more than 2 varieties of each type, so that is why I am trying to dig into the details.  Maybe I might be able to do 6 varieties of at least peas, field peas, and beans if I did an early and a late each year and isolated them from each other using time as the isolator. 

year 1 spring  type a fall type b
year 2 spring type c fall type d
year 3 spring type e fall type f total of 6 types

Those of you who are stewarding multiple legumes, how do you arrange your rotations? 


Rebecca Newburn
Pronouns: she/her/ella                  
Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library
Planting seeds for the just and sustainable future.

I acknowledge that my home sits within the 'Huichin' land today that is the unceded traditional ancestral homelands of the Huichin, an Ohlone people.

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