As I mentioned in an earlier post, our broad beans were slow to produce pods because of an unusually cold winter. Broad beans are a combination of self-pollination and cross-pollination, and our broad beans do not start to set pods until bees become active in the garden.
Broad beans cease producing flowers when day temperatures are high (or when some pods have been allowed to reach maturity). Despite the shorter harvesting period this year, our small bed produced more broad beans than we could eat. During the harvesting period, I marked several of the healthiest plants and allowed the pods on these plants to fully mature for seed. In the photo below, the bean pods on the left are a perfect size to pick for use as a vegetable. The seeds in these pods are delicious and tender. Pods left on plants until they become spongy require both shelling and the removal of the outer seed coat.
The pods on the right of the photo are suitable to save as seed. Fully mature pods have lost their spongy feel and have become quite firm. It is recommended to allow pods to dry on the plants. However, as some of the pods were beginning to split (allowing the sun to damage the seeds), and rain was predicted, I brought the selected pods indoors to continue drying for a couple more days. Then I shelled the broad beans, and spread them on a flyscreen rack to continue drying. Seed is dry enough for packaging when firm pressure from a thumbnail will not leave a dent in the seed.
When saving seed from pea plants, follow the above advice for selecting suitable pods to save. Seed collected from pods near the base of pea plants is considered to be the best, but don’t let that deter you from saving seed if you have already picked those pods. It is best to leave pods on pea plants until seeds rattle within the pods. You will probably have to net the plants, or birds will eat the seed before it is ready to harvest. However, once pods have become thin-skinned and yellow, and rain is predicted, you can pull up the plants and hang them upside down indoors to prevent premature sprouting of seed. (If the pods a close to the base of large plants, I hang a portion of the plant for drying.)
When seeds rattle in their pods, shell them, and spread seeds on a rack for a few more days to ensure they are completely dry.
Please note: unless your choice is extremely limited, only save seed from strong, disease-free plants that produce well-filled pods. If saving seed from pods that have some seeds missing, this characteristic can appear in plants grown from seed from those pods. Discard discoloured seeds and seeds much smaller than average. When seeds are dry enough for packaging, keep them in a paper container, inside a sealed container in a cool spot.