Germ-testing Bean Seed

Not as in, “do they have germs,” but as in, “will they germinate?”

I have a number of containers of this borlotto pole bean seed (“Bingo” from Territorial Seed) saved for both eating and planting in this year’s gardens.  They are well-dried and stored in air-tight containers.

However, I read in Suzanne Ashworth’s Seed to Seed that if you’re going to save and re-plant bean seed, you should put it in a deep freeze for five days to kill any weevils present.

When I read that, I suddenly realized what had happened with some other pole snap beans I’d saved and planted last year–they were covered with little beetles I’d not seen in such numbers in my garden before.  They’d probably overwintered in my seed and hatched out–lowering germination and turning some of my pole bean plants to lace.

So, making sure my containers (I’m using honey jars with screw-on plastic lids) of beans were well-sealed, I put them down in the basement chest freezer for the prescribed amount of time, then took them out and allowed them to come to room temperature without opening the jars (which can cause condensation to form on the inside, ruining the seed).

Great–but then this year’s seed orders were due to be made, and I kept wondering if the beans I’d frozen would still germinate–what if I didn’t order any and then none came up, either?

You can see what I did by the image at the top of the post–simply selected 20 or so beans, put them on a paper towel on a plate, folded the towel over them, and moistened it with warm water.  I put the plate on top of the fridge (where it’s warm) and checked it every couple of days–re-moistening if the towel got dry.

Most of the beans had germinated by yesterday–the few off to the right side hadn’t, so I separated them to make it easy to see when and if they would.  By this morning, all 21 beans had sprouted–maybe five or six days after I started the germination test.

Now I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with not re-ordering these beans, and I’m also confident of the bean-saving and freezing techniques I’ve learned!


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