Question: How do I save the seeds from some of my bean plants and store them over the winter to plant next year?
Answer: It's relatively easy to save seeds of legumes, such as peas and beans, as long as they are open-pollinated (non-hybrid) varieties. Beans rarely cross-pollinate with other beans, so the seeds you collect will probably come true-to-type next year. Select the healthiest bean pods from the healthiest plants. Let the pods dry on the plant, and brown well beyond the fresh-eating stage. This allows the bean seed inside to mature. When the bean pod is fully dry and begins to split open (or before a frost), harvest the beans and bring them into a dry, well-ventilated room. For small numbers of pods, remove the seeds by hand. For large numbers of pods, place the pods in a burlap sack and whack the sack with a stick until the seeds are removed from the pods. Separate the seed from the chaff and store the beans in a glass jar in a cool, dark place.
Question: My husband and I recently purchased a home in Vermont with a row of hazelbert shrubs out front. Can you tell me how I should harvest and store the nuts?
Answer: First, you'll probably have to fight the squirrels over the nuts. They love eating hazelberts. I'd suggest placing some netting over the shrubs as the nuts begin to ripen. Harvest nuts when they yield to being gently tugged by hand. Dry the nuts on a screen in a warm, well-ventilated area for 2 to 4 days. Shell the nuts with a mechanical sheller or nutcracker. As they dry, the nutmeat becomes firm and cream-colored.
The nuts can be stored in the freezer in bags. They will maintain their quality for up to one year. You can roast dried hazelberts to bring out their flavor. Roast in a shallow pan in a 275-degree F. oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until the skin cracks. Roasted nuts only last a few months in storage so roast them in batches as you need them.