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Broad Beans

Written by Carolyn on April 20th, 2012.      16 comments

Broad Beans

 

At this time of year at Kings Seeds, Broad Beans leap wholehearted towards the top of our best-selling list, and we are furiously filling packets with broad beans to keep up with demand. 

 

At home, we sowed our broad beans not long ago.  If they produce a good crop it will be our first successful attempt at growing broad beans.  I'm looking forward to seeing how they progress....it's always nice to have things growing in the garden over the colder months.  The best months to sow broad beans in New Zealand's temperate climate is from March through to the end of July, but if you live in the colder parts of the country you can sow them from February through to the end of September.  They don't like to grow in the heat of summer.

The broad bean was domesticated in about 3000BC.  The Egyptians, the Romans and the Greeks all cultivated broad beans.

Throughout Britain and most of the Mediterranean, Broad Beans were the only beans known until explorers discovered the Americas and brought other bean varieties home with them. 

Also known as the fava bean, the broad bean produces a delicious and abundant food crop.  In addition, it is also extremely useful as a soil improver - it is a nitrogen fixer. 

Broad beans are a good source of protein, fibre, vitamins A and C, potassium and iron.

 

 

Broad Beans in the Garden

Broad beans are easy to grow (that sounds promising for us first-timers) and like well-dug soil enriched with plenty of compost.  They don't much like being waterlogged.  Sow your seed directly at a depth of approximately twice the diameter of the seed and space plants about 15 - 25 cm apart.  Watch out for birds - they love eating the new broad bean shoots!  Broad beans grow best in sunny locations, but they will tolerate some shade.  It is a good idea to provide some support for your plants are they grow taller so that they don't fall over - stake them with posts and/or string.  Your broad beans should be ready for harvest 90-160 days from sowing. 

 

Broad beans are pollinated by bees, so it could be a good idea to plan to have some plants nearby that will attract bees to the garden - we have some self-sown borage coming up nearby that we hope will do the trick.

 

Broad beans ripen from the base of the plant upwards.  For the most tender beans, harvest them before the pods have fully developed  (when the pods are 75-100 mm long).  After you have harvested all your beans, cut down the stems and leaves of the plants but leave the roots in the soil - their concentration of nitrogen will benefit other crops.

 

Broad beans in the Kitchen

The fresh beans can be eaten steamed or boiled. As the beans mature it is better to remove their tough outer skins after cooking.  After flowering, you can also pick the leafy top shoots of the adult plants and eat them in salads, steam them or add them to stir-fries.    If you have an oversupply of broad beans you can remove them from the pods, and blanch and freeze them for use later.

 

 

Crushed Broad Bean and Mint Bruschetta

When you have broad beans ready, you could try this wonderful recipe for bruschetta topped with broad beans and mint.  To make it, gather the following ingredients:

  • 250g cooked broad beans, with the outer skin removed (just squeeze them to do this)
  • handful grated parmesan ( plus a few shavings to finish)
  • a couple of slugs of extra-virgin olive oil
  • a small bunch of mint, leaves only, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 1 French stick or small ciabatta, cut into 8 thin slices and toasted

After cooking your broad beans, squeeze the outer skin off each bean, then place them in a bowl and lightly crush. Season, then mix in grated parmesan, freshly chopped mint and a slug of olive oil. Rub slices of toasted bread with a cut garlic clove.  Top with the broad bean mix, drizzle over a little more oil and finish with parmesan shavings.

 

If you want a good resource for more recipes for using your broad beans, check out the BBC's Good Food site - the recipes sound great!  

My goal this winter is to spare my children my own childhood experience of loathing the nasty, leathery overcooked broad beans that my well-meaning but overly-busy mother served up (sorry, Mum!).  I'm definitely going to try out some recipes that involve removing the outer skin of the broad bean as I'm sure the children will prefer them that way. 

 

Do broad beans get the thumbs up or the thumbs down at your house?  If you haven't tried them, recently, how about giving them another go?

 

 

 

 

16 Comments

Karen@KingsSeeds says ...
Hi Mark,
Bumblebees are pollinators and also nectar robbers. This is when they chew through the flower to get to the nectar. As they tend not to touch the reproductive parts of the flower when doing this, there should be no problem with fruit setting. Some research indicates that it can actually be beneficial for the plant as not all the nectar is taken at this time, encouraging multiple pollinators.
Mark woodward says ...
bumble bees have chewed a hole in most of my broadbean flowers if the bees pollinate the beans how do i protect the flowers,and does chewing a hole at the flower base stop the actual bean setting and growing,any ideas,
Karen to John says ...
I sowed Kings Dwarf Early Green Broad Beans at the end of April. The plants are now nearly 2 metres tall, masses of flowers but not one single bean yet so they don't appear to be Dwarf nor Early. Any advice please?

We have two big patches here at our site and they are doing exactly the same so sorry, it is just a matter of waiting.
Julie says ...
Hello! I'm just wondering if we should plant broad beans in our legume plot over winter (following pole beans and snow peas) and then rotate the crop at the beginning of spring? Will the beans be ready for harvest by Sep-Oct in order for us to do so? Thank you!
Judi Johnson says ...
Young whole broad beans - little finger size, lightly simmered in salted water are Delicious! !
Johanna Kenkel says ...
Fat bumblebees are chewing through the flower base. How to deter them from this?
Deb James says ...
Grow really well here at Okarito beach, plant among kelp strands, April-June and harvest Boxing Day. Bumble bees pollinate.
Brian from Belfast says ...
Big broad bean fan, I plant hundreds of seeds every year.
I plant my seeds closer than you recommend and ring fence the crop for added support.
What do you recommend as a fertilizer for broad beans ?
General garden fertilizer, Blood and Bone?
NPK ratios please.
Any special tips appreciated.
Karen - Kings Seeds says ...
Heike,
It is a great time to plant broad beans now. They take approx 75 days from direct sowing to mature. :)
Heike says ...
I was wondering if it is too early to sow Broad Beans now - beginning of March - in a frost free climate (Marlborough Sounds)??
When would they be ready for harvesting?
Jude Lambert says ...
Bumble bees have made a good job of setting my broad beans, and I find fresh from the garden they are good tender eating skins and all. I have only eaten frozen befor, once was enough, but these are sweet and delicious.
I share in a community garden at Beach Haven, Auckland.
Richard Boyden says ...
Hello need your help . growing Broad bean here in Nelson and they were planted in June . At present plenty of flowers (August ) on each but there seems no bean started behind the flower . Since its winter no bees seem to be around is this the reason ? Will The bean start growth later on ? or there something I can Do .
Appreciate your comments
Regards
Richard rpboyden@actrix.co.nz
matt gloss says ...
We only have bumble bees and they do a great job - I fed the soil and planted the seed and we have a huge crop. Westland NZ
Carolyn, Kings Seeds says ...
Yes, Alessandra, that's normal if you sowed it earlier...you'll get to enjoy your broad beans earlier than I will! :-)
Alessandra says ...
I have a broad bean plant flowering now, and even has a couple of pods on it, is that normal?

Alessandra
Jordy says ...
Be wary of Bumblebees on your Broad Beans. If you find that you are not getting many pods, check the flowers, they are likely to have a small hole cut at the base of the flower, where Bumblebees preffer to chew their way to the nectar, instead of squeezing their oversized bums into the flower to pollinate it. This has to be one of the very few instances in which i do not like and deter bumblebees.