The magic of growing plants from seed you’ve collected

There’s a special kind of wonder in beginning at the beginning

Bean feast: seeds saved from this year’s crop to sow again for next summer.
Bean feast: seeds saved from this year’s crop to sow again for next summer. Photograph: Allan Jenkins

A winter Sunday morning. Near biblical rain for, it feels like, 40 days. The pathways are saturated and water streams. The lowers plots are littered with random pools.

I am not keen on walking on the soil. I don’t want to impact or churn it. I am not looking to make mud. The chicories sit in small lakes. There is the slight air of Glastonbury. At least I didn’t bring a tent.

I have been waiting for drier weather. At least an interlude. I am keen to take the hazel poles down, to strip the remaining beans. I have been leaving them to ‘cure’, or at least to dry out a bit more. But the dangling, fat pods are in danger of moulding. I am here to save seed.

I fill my jacket pockets with deep purple beans and pink-flecked yellow ones. They are mostly ‘Blauhilde’ and ‘Gold of Bacau’. The latter are much less easy to find. Some pods are slippery. They come away in my hand. Others have a pleasing leathery feel. Within a few damp minutes I have more than we’ll need.

There is a special magic in sowing seed you’ve saved, eating food that belongs to this land. The same can be said about flowers. I have grown tagetes Ildkongen here for many years. This year we also trialled a creamy yellow Tagetes patula from the Danish seed savers and I am keen to take this year’s seed. The heads are sodden, but I will slowly dry them later on tissue, open to heat.

The red chicories look limp, but the mizuna is thriving in swathes of jagged-edged green. They are survivors, the Japanese mustards. I chew on a few hot leaves while I work.

At home, Henri is still away. No one to frown while I fan out beans over the kitchen table to dry. Later, I’ll pod and sort through them. I’ll think of another summer.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order a copy from