Broad Beans

Broad Beans Growing
Broad Beans Growing


Broad beans can be boiled and added cold to salads, smashed into mash with added garlic for an humous like dip, pan fried wih garlic, or added to casseroles, risottos, and bolognese.

Broad beans are the only hardy bean – meaning they are capable of resisting cold weather. They can be overwintered by sowing in autumn. This can be very successful, with harvests up to a month earlier than sowing in the spring (or a total failure depending on the severity of the winter). If overwintered, they can fill the gap between early and late spring when there is little else available on the allotment.


  • Planting depth: 3cm beneath soil
  • Planting spacing: plants 9″ or 23 cm apart, and the rows about 18″ or 45 cm apart


The best time to eat broad beans is as soon as possible after picking. They also freeze very well. Before freezing you may want to blanch the beans in hot water (plunge them in already boiling water and remove a few seconds later). This also gives you the opportunity to remove the outer skin of the beans, a process called 'double podding'.

= jar, = freeze, = store


Most commonly grown are white and green broad beans, but for interest, you may like to try growing red broad beans. The pods are still green, but the beans inside the pods are red.

For a spring harvest, look for varieties that can be overwintered. The beans are planted in the autumn, and the small plants survive the winter before accelerating into flower and pods in the following spring. In particularly cold areas, or when very cold weather is predicted, the plants may need covering with a cloche or fleece to protect the plants.

An alternative to overwintering is to look for varieties of broad beans that can be sown from February onward, or varieties that grow and mature to harvest quickly (although these may have smaller pods). I have found this to be the most reliable method for securing a good harvest on my plot.

If space is limited, it is possible to plant dwarf varieties of broad beans in pots. If these pots are positioned in a sheltered spot, and seeds are sown successionally, it is possible to achieve a harvest of broad beans over many months. Broad beans freeze very well (blanche in hot water and double pod).

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In truth, there is very little for the allotmenter to do when growing broad beans. They grow at a time of year when there should be plenty of rainfall, thereby avoiding the need to water the seedlings. In later spring, if the weather is warm and dry, topping up with watering when the plants are in flower will help the pods form and swell.

It is necessary to hoe regularly between the plants as broad beans grow tall without providing ground cover, allowing light to reach the soil to encourage weeds. Except for dwarf types, most varieties will need protection from the wind to avoid them being toppled. The easiest way is to surround the rows with canes, and then use twine or wire to create a ‘cage’ for them.

The biggest problem affecting broad beans are aphids, worse in some years than others, but nearly always present. An attack of aphids can look ugly, with masses of aphids smoothering the young shoots and flowers. Before an attack gets really bad, it is best to try and wash them off with water or rub them away between fingers, and repeat as necessary. A mild aphid attack should not prevent a satisfactory harvest.


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