If you like the strong beanie taste of broad beans you could hardly have found a more nutritious food. They are very high in protein and also contain: dietary fibre, vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, folate, thiamin, potassium, iron, copper and manganese.
These properties help to explain why the bean is grown all over the world – and is known in the USA as the Fava Bean.
- From February to May, or October to November if overwintering
- Planting depth: 3cm beneath soil
- Planting spacing: plants 9″ or 23cm apart, and the rows about 18″ or 45cm apart
- May to August
- Blanch before preserving or freezing. Double shell first.
Broad beans are different to runner beans in that they are not grown for their young pods but left to mature for the beans themselves. To achieve the best taste you may want to double ‘shell’. The first stage is to remove the beans from the pods. The second stage is to boil the beans for 2-3 minutes, drain and allow to cool, before pinching the beans out from their more chewy outer skin. Not everyone does this, but the extra effort can be worth it, especially for older beans.
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 etc.
Broad beans are the only hardy bean – meaning they are capable of resisting cold weather. The main consideration is whether to attempt to overwinter broad beans 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.
Broad beans grow quickly, and if over wintered can break the hungry gap between early and late spring when there is little else available on the allotment. A spring sowing should be ready for harvesting from June onwards.
How To Grow Broad Beans – Care
In truth, there is very little for the allotmenter to do when growing broad beans. They grow at a time of year when their should be plenty of rainfall, so no extra watering should be required. You may consider topping up with watering if the weather is very dry during the time when the broad beans are in flower.
You will need to hoe regularly between the plants, as broad beans grow tall and leave light to encourage weeds. Some tall varieties may need some protection from the wind. The easiest way is to surround with canes and then use twine to create a little ‘cage’ for them.
The main problem affecting broad beans are black aphids, worse in some years than others. An attack of aphids is almost inevitable, and they can look ugly smoothering the young shoots and flowers. If the attack is really bad it is possible to wash them off with water. A mild aphid attack should not prevent a satisfactory harvest.
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.
Most commonly grown are green broad beans, but colours range from white to red. Also, there are dwarf and tall varieties, and those with different number of beans per pod.