Let's Talk About Broad Beans
These delicious beans are easy to grow and will prosper in just about any soil and climate. Store bought varieties are often big, floury and lacking in flavour, but when you grow your own, you can pick them when they are young, tender and at their tastiest. Though, it’s their versatility that make them an obvious choice for gardeners. As well as boasting a number of brilliant health benefits, they can be used in a wide array of recipes in both raw and cooked form. From salads and risottos to houmous and pasta… the possibilities are endless.
Did you know? Although they hold the term ‘bean’ in their name, broad beans are actually part of the pea family.
The growing process
Pick your varieties
New to broad bean growing, or simply looking for an alternative variety to trial, perhaps? Well, here are a few of our favourites you might like to try:
Dubbed ‘the gardener’s favourite’, this fabulous variety produces slender pods of long, full succulent white seeded flavoursome beans.
A heritage broad bean variety with stunning crimson flowers, followed by a good crop of short, upright pods and delicious beans. Ideal for growing in containers as well as in the garden.
This variety is a must for anyone looking for something a little different. These robust and relatively compact beans are best when small so they cook quickly and retain much of their pretty colour.
These small but flavoursome beans are the best option for freezer storage, being far less prone to discolouring than larger varieties. Get the most from your broad bean crop and allow pods to fill and pick whilst young and tender.
Broad bean seeds are large, so very easy to sow as a result. If sowing your seeds directly in the ground now, you’ll need to cover them until March. Choose a sunny, sheltered growing location with well-drained soil. Sow seeds in single rows with approx. 20cm between each, or sow as double rows 60cm apart. It’s worth sowing a few extra seeds at the end of the rows to produce extra plants that can be lifted and moved to fill any gaps left by seeds that fail to germinate.
Broad bean care advice
- Hoe regularly to remove weeds as soon as they appear
- Cover the newly sown area with netting to protect the seeds from birds and squirrels
- Water regularly once you see flowers appear
- Use supports, such as our Pea & Bean Stakes, to help beans grow tall
To pick your broad beans at their best, remember: tiny and tender gives the best quality. As soon as you can feel the beans through the pods, they are ready to pick. Start at the bottom of the plant and work your way up. You can pick pods when they are 8cm long and cook them whole. Once the pods are shelled, the beans inside can be cooked straight away or frozen for later use.
Tip: Younger beans are sweeter and more flavourful.If left to ripen too much the skin on the broad beans can become tough and bitter tasting.
Other uses for your surplus harvest of broad beans
Not sure what to do with all of your leftover broad beans? Well, they are actually far more versatile than you think. Here’s some inspiration beyond the obvious…
Smashed broad beans
A greener, healthier and more delicious (controversial?!) version of beans on toast. It’s quick and easy to rustle up, so perfect when you’re short of time. In a food processor blitz ¼ of your broad beans, some rocket, garlic, pecorino, lemon zest, olive oil and some seasoning. Once mixed, add in remaining broad beans and pulse a few times. Leave it chunky as it will taste far superior. Spread onto toast and sprinkle with chilli flakes and a drizzle of olive oil.
Broad bean dip
Perfect for mezze platters, wraps or simply eaten as a tasty snack with crisps or pitta breads, this tasty dip is super simple to make. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and cook broad beans for 2 minutes. Drain and plunge into cold water. Drain again and remove the outer skins. Place your broad beans along with some garlic, ground cumin, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil and eat with pittas.
Mexican broad bean patties
Broad beans really are one of the most versatile ingredients in the kitchen. These delicious patties are crunchy on the outside and soft inside – the perfect alternative to a meat-based burger. Heat some oil in a large pan and cook an onion. Meanwhile, place some barley in a large saucepan and boil for 40 minutes or until tender. Pour the drained water over a bowl of broad beans and stand for 2 minutes. Remove the skins from your beans and then blend or process until smooth. Combine cooked barley, pureed beans, onion, breadcrumbs and 1 egg in a bowl and mix well. Shape the mixture into large patties. Combine some egg with milk and dip each patty into the mixture. Press crushed cheese flavoured tortilla chips onto each patty and place on a lined baking tray. Cook for approx. 25 minutes or until firm. Serve in buns with sliced avocado and tomato salsa.
These delicious beans are easy to grow and will prosper in just about any soil and climate. Store bought varieties are often big, floury and lacking in flavour, but when you grow your own, you can pick them when they are young, tender and at their tastiest. Though, it’s their versatility that make them an obvious choice for gardeners. As well as boasting a number of brilliant health benefits, they can be used in a wide array of recipes in both raw and cooked from. From salads and risottos to houmous and pasta… the possibilities are endless.