How Do You Save Seeds from Beans for Planting or Eating?

When you are growing an heirloom variety of beans (cow peas, or snap beans it doesn’t matter) it is easy to save the seeds from year to year.

These are purple-hulled peas which are called that because of the bright purple-colored hulls they produce. You can eat these fresh as “green beans” or let them dry and use them in soups, stews, and chili.

To save seeds each year you need to let the pods dry on the vine or harvest the pods once they are fully matured. Shell them by pulling the pods apart.

This task becomes a family event that happens while watching TV or a movie in the evenings. Even the little guys can split the dried hulls apart and pull out the beans.

Many bean pods will split at the side seams if you squeeze them gently. Sometimes you can see the mature seeds nestled inside one half of the bean pod.

You can see why another common name for purple-hulled peas is sometimes “pink-eyed beans”. They resemble black-eyed beans except the eye part is a colorful pinkish-purple color instead. They taste meatier than the generic and more familiar pinto beans in my opinion.

If you are saving seeds for eating you don’t have to be as picky about which seeds you use. Obviously bad or rotten seeds are discarded of course, but smaller or misshapen beans can usually be eaten with no problems. However you wouldn’t want to plant any seeds that weren’t well-formed.

Notice that one of these seeds is much smaller. This would be an example of a seed we didn’t save for planting. 

Let the seeds thoroughly dry in an area that is out of light and chance of water. We spread them out on a feed sack or sheet in a single layer so they can dry all the way. An easy (and fun) way to tell if the seeds are dry enough to store long-term is to smash one with a hammer. If it cracks it’s ready and if it smooshes you need to let it dry some more.

The seed-stock for these beans came from Sidney’s grandfather and as far as I know has been used for over 50 years. Talk about getting your money’s worth! Do you save seeds? Do you have family seeds that have been passed down?

About AngEngland

has written 498 posts in this blog.

Founder of Untrained Housewife, Editor-in-Chief of Blissfully Domestic (, mother of five, wife of one, and God-seeker always.



  1. says

    I’ll have to try this. I’ve got a productive row in my garden that I had just been sampling and eating raw. When I went one day to harvest, all the mature ones had turned brown ;-( The plants are flowering again so I think I’ll get another chance but now I think I’ll try to save some seeds for next season. The ones I planted were certified organic and came up nicely, so I’m sure they like my soil. Thanks, Ang!

    • says

      If the mature ones are still on the vine and brown and dried you might be able to save them still. These were mostly all dried on the vine…we only harvested them so they’d be spared from expected rain to prevent any rotting. :-)

  2. says

    We let ours dry in the pod, then put them in a pillowcase and stomp on them for a minute or two before pouring them into a large container or bowl. Most of the beans will separate from the pods and we can shake the bowl back and forth to get the chaff to rise to the top so we can throw it into the compost. If we’re using them for next years crop they don’t have to be super cleaned, and if we’re using them for soup we winnow them a bit more between two big bowls (outside) and blow off all the chaff.

  3. Purple hull says

    Purple hull – 70 days. The pods are purple and the peas are green with pink eyes. I liked the flavor. The vines seemed to run all over the ground. I don’t know if they would climb if given a chance. I planted them very late in a empty spot in the garden, so they suffered lots of cowpeas aphids. I think this was due to cooler weather and our moist fall. They were planted the beginning of sept, and harvested beginning of November. Not anything I would repeat. It was sad to see the plants covered in bugs. The peas produced well though and tasted great. I plan to try purple hull again, to see if warmer weather keeps the bugs away. I did not save any seeds, since I don’t save seeds from sick plants. I did receive some purple hulls on a trade so I could plant them again this year, but out of the 100 or so he sent they all had signs of weevils. I tossed all but 19 seeds. I may plant these away from all my other peas in case they still have weevils. Are weevils caused by wet soil? I did not get them in my saved seeds last year. The soil was not wet, but painfully dry most of the time.

    • Catherine Smith says

      Try interplanting some dill or marigolds in and around your peas. Both are natural insect repellents and should help with your aphid problems. Look for the French or African types, they smell terrible, which is of course the point. LOL Both the dill and the marigold flowers are edible as well, so you get more bang for your buck. You can help control infestation on your growing beans/peas by using row covers, the type that allow light and moisture in, but help to keep the adult beetles out.

      Weevils are normally passed from one batch of infected seed to another. And is one of the problems for home growers. You can help control them by carefully inspecting your seed, look for small holes or “dimples” in the seed, destroy those. After you’ve harvested store your seed in glass containers, which will help keep anything else from being infested. The larvae eat the inside of the seed and when hatched will try to escape to the light, that’s what you’re seeing if you find your bean sacks riddled with small holes.

  4. Julie says

    Two questions – one can you get green beans first and then let the last harvest dry out to get seeds and dry beans for soup? ie black valentine Problem is I’m in zone 4 so not as long of a growing season. Two – can you grow more than one variety in a 20 x 20 plot? (I’m in a community garden)

    Thank you.

    • says

      Yes you can pick them green and then let the later pods dry on the vine for seed saving. Realize that once you let the bean pod mature that particular plant will cease producing new flowers and beans so you can still harvest. Yes you can grow multiple varieties but if you wanted you could have other gardeners in your community plot grow a different variety and then swap seeds as desired.

  5. Tina Manning says

    My hubby and i are trying this for the first time. What about the beans that are still in green hulls. Can they be dried too or frozen and saved for soups, etc..?


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