Nelson Seed Library Volunteer Ami Kennedy with some of the bean varieties they have available from Nelson's Elma Turner Library. Photo: Jessie Johnston.

Special bean varieties need rescuing


The Nelson Seed Library is looking for some green fingered volunteers to help them with their latest project, The Great Bean Rescue.

The seed library is a free service that was established a year ago by the members of the Nelson Permaculture group. The aim is to provide keen gardeners with a stock of seeds, as well as the education needed to plant them, grow them and save them.

“We had a seed collection that we’d been looking after and we were just bringing that out once in a while at meetings, video and information evenings and the Evolve festival,” says Nelson Permaculture group member and seed library volunteer, Ami Kennedy.

“A year or two ago I thought, what more can we do with this, we’ve got the seed stock and it’s just sitting there, not a lot of growing is going on, so, I came across this idea from a library in California where the public library had a seed library.”

It’s a community resource that requires people to register before using an old school library card system to keep track of seeds taken to be grown and the new seeds returned to be used by others.

The Great Bean Rescue is a recent initiative for the Nelson Seed Library and was started after a unique collection of dwarf and climbing beans was gifted to the Nelson Seed Library by the Heritage Food Crops Research Trust in Whanganui.

“Beans are among the easiest seeds to learn to save, so even new gardeners can join this important project. It’s doing a really valuable service to seed diversity because a lot of these seeds are actually really unique to New Zealand, let alone Nelson,” says Ami.

“Unfortunately, some of them have been kept in storage for about four years and they need to be grown.”

Although their viability has been compromised, the group has put enough seeds in each packet that people should be able to grow around three or four plants, which can then by saved and a fresh stock of seeds returned to the library.

“Some of these beans have beautiful stories with them and some of those stories have been lost, so we’re encouraging the bean rescuers to do a bit of research and see if they can find out where those beans have come from,” says Ami.

“One that we have in the library is called Bobs Bean and that was an Italian variety, but it came with one of the returned servicemen after the second World War, he brought them into New Zealand in his socks. Every bean will have its story of how it came to New Zealand.”

To help in the Great Bean Rescue, simply pop into Elma Turner Library, grab a packet of beans and a pamphlet and get growing.

The group is also looking for information on how the beans grow in different conditions, how they taste, etc. to help future growers achieve success.

There is a wide range of other seeds available, too.

For more information on the group or getting involved as a volunteer, check out their website at or follow them on Facebook.