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The great bean rescue: how you can ensure future food security

The great bean rescue: how you can ensure future food security

The great bean rescue: how you can ensure future food security

People of Nelson, your beans need your help!

A unique collection of dwarf and climbing beans was recently gifted to the Nelson Seed Library by the Heritage Food Crops Research Trust in Whanganui – a precious community resource that is running out of time. The ancestors of these beans were handed down from generation to generation for over 2,000 years in Central and Southern America. It is now Nelson’s turn to save these beans for the future.

As beans age, they lose viability and Nelson Seed Librarians, Brendon Nevin and Ami Kennedy, are concerned that if no one grows them into bean plants and gathers new beans this year, these special bean varieties – including “Zuni Shalako Bean”, “Iroquois Flagg Climbing”, “Flor de Mayo” and “Hawkesbury Wonder” – might be lost forever.  They are asking the Nelson community to make a special effort to grow them so they can survive for another generation of Nelson growers to borrow from the seed library.

“We need lots of people across the region to take up the challenge of protecting a few rare varieties,” Brendon says. “Beans are among the easiest seeds to learn to save so even new gardeners can join this important project.”

Ami stresses the importance of keeping different varieties alive. “We have suffered huge losses in our biodiversity as our farms have grown bigger and our agriculture has globalised,” she explains. “Everyone is growing the same few species, but biodiversity is important for our food resilience. As our climate changes, we need to be able to adapt, and that means having choices available.”

Any gardeners who would like to join the Great Bean Rescue can sign up on the Nelson Seed Library website or in person at their monthly Q & A session at the Elma Turner Library.

How can you help?

  • Choose a few varieties of beans to save from the drawers in the Nelson Seed Library and record them on your record card (and join if you are not yet a member).
  • Keep the name and other information with them at every step.
  • Sow the beans and care for the bean plants as they grow.
  • Eat some beans – yum!
  • Let the rest reach full maturity – the bean pods will be brown and crackly when they are ready.
  • Harvest the beans from dry pods and leave them to dry some more.
  • Store the beans in two dry, airtight containers, one for you and one for the seed library.
  • Return at least a cup of your (clearly labelled) beans to the Nelson Seed Library.
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