The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

The Grand Broad Bean Challenge

Broad beans

Broad beans

Home grown broad beans are an entirely different ‘animal’ from those wet, hard skinned specimens that were served for school lunches when I was a child. Even the podded broad beans available from good greengrocers and high end supermarkets are not a patch on the pods plucked from your garden and devoured within minutes.

Broad beans tops are a delicacy in France . Baby beans cooked in the pod are delicious. Even more mature broad beans haven’t a hint of school dinners and old mens’ fingers with their translucent skin. To be at their best broad beans need to be eaten super fresh. That’s why it’s worth growing them yourself. Don’t cross broad beans off the seed list until you’ve actually tasted home grown beans.

Young broad beans are a great addition to a salad too – packed with protein and summery flavours. If you are lucky enough to have a glut they also freeze well – I don’t even blanch the beans before freezing.

Most years I sow broad beans before November 5th. The plants generally survive the frosts and snow in our sheltered garden and we have an early crop that is less likely to be damaged by black fly.

This year I decided to sow them early in the year in modules. I planted them out in a border at the beginning of April. Initially I sowed two varieties Claudia Aquadulce (apparently ideal for autumn sowing) and The Sutton. A few weeks ago I invested in some plants from the garden centre – Bunyard’s Exhibition.

Up until two years ago, John sowed his broad bean seed in our garden. They remained nameless. Perhaps he’d been saving seed and planting for so many years that he’d forgotten the variety?

Broad bean flowers

Broad bean flowers

This year I was determined to compare at least a couple of varieties for flavour and overall yield. My plants have been tended with the utmost care. Fed with a diluted liquid seaweed feed once a month and watered every day. I had no idea that when beans or peas are in flower they need extra water. They have been given lavish attention and now they look stunning. Good strong plants, with not a trace of black fly and lots of flowers. And all those flowers will produce beans.

This evening I spotted that baby beans are finally forming on some of the plants. So soon the Cottage Smallholder field trials can begin.

 


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12 Comments

  1. Shereen

    I’ve never been a real fan of broadbeans, even when they were Mum’s home grown ones. However I had a side dish of baby broadbeans and bacon on a recent trip to France and thought it delicious. I’ve also cooked and skinned broadbeans to add into pasta dishes – I find skinless ones much more pleasant to eat.

  2. Marion

    Mine too, Joey!

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