Broad beans come in many varieties, which give you the problem of which to choose. I would normally look for a packet of seeds (which are usually broad beans from the previous season) that gives a description of what I need whether it be size, dwarf type or flavour, but those of us that know will keep some of the broad beans that we have previously planted, as the new seeds for the next season.
Broad beans are one of the easiest of vegetables to grow, for in fact broad beans were grown in and around the Mediterranean since before 6000 B C., the “Broad” bean is one of the large seeds grown for human consumption, the “smaller” broad bean being grown for livestock.
In the past it was part of the staple diet of the poor, and they ground the roast broad bean to make flour. We of course know the broad bean as a vegetable to go with our dinners, but have you considered it’s use in salads, pates or even added to rice or pasta dishes, not to mention soup, even as a bean soup.
Have you ever tasted skinned broad beans? Take the broad beans out of their pods and boil in water for around one minute, then place the beans in cold water so you can handle them, they will still be fairly firm at this stage, then make a small cut at the top of the broad bean with a knife or even a finger nail, then gently squeeze the broad bean out of it’s skin and finally boil for a further 3 to 4 minutes. You will find the broad beans have a sweeter, milder taste.
Not everyone is aware of the health benefits of broad beans, as they contain vitamins A and C plus of course they are full of protein, but the broad bean is rich in L-dopa which assists in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, and is also believed to help in the treatment of hypertension.
There are basically three varieties of broad beans comprising:-
1) LONGPODS. These are more hardier and give a higher yield.
2) WINDSOR VARIETIES. Although this type of broad bean gives a better flavour their yield is lower.
3) DWARF VARIETIES. If you live in exposed areas these broad beans can be grown under glass or in cloches.
Some people are already aware that broad beans attract black fly, so to overcome this problem, why not start to grow them in November? they will mature in spring when there are no black fly to infest the broad beans! The only consideration under these circumstances is to protect the beans against a bad winter. I must admit to seeing broad beans actually growing covered in snow. But when I returned I was amazed that the broad beans had not suffered in size quantity or flavour.
You may not be aware of how many varieties of broad bean there are suffice it to say there are literally hundreds, so I have taken a few to give you an idea of what you may want to try.
Broad Bean BORLOTTA SUPREMA.
Borlotta Suprema is of the dwarf variety of broad bean, and produces a high yield of decorative pods, whilst the beans themselves have an excellent flavour if used as young green beans or dried for haricot beans, also the interesting colours make an addition to otherwise plain cooking.
Broad Bean BROAD WINDSOR.
Broad Windsor takes 240 days from planting to harvesting or between 130-150 days if you sow them in spring. The broad bean pods produced are light green with 6 or7 large green beans, an ideal bean for planting in coastal areas or ordinary soil conditions, A variety that can be planted mid- September to early november or from February onwards.
Broad Bean EXPRESS.
If you like to freeze broad beans (for eating at a later date) The broad bean Express could be just the one you are looking for. The other qualities of Express being that it matures earlier than most others and if you plant early in spring the yield of up to 34 pods per plant will be greater than most others plants, but do remember to nip off the tops of the plants when they start flowering.
If deep frozen the Express beans do not discolour and is particularly tasty and tender, replacing beans such as Green Windsor, because Express is a greater improvement. Remember you can plant this broad bean any time from late winter to early summer.
Broad Bean GREEN WINDSOR LARGE.
The Green Windsor Large, is a variety for spring sowing only, producing large beans with an excellent flavour and ideal for freezing but the pods are shorter producing fewer beans, and slower to mature than long pods, although people say the flavour has a hint of something! making it theirfavourite.
Broad Bean IMPERIAL GREEN LONG POD.
The name Imperial green long pod, just about says it all, for it is a long pod producing up to 8 beans per pod, having an excellent succulent flavour and ideal for freezing. A
variety that can be sown from February onwards.
Broad Bean JUBILEE HYSOR.
Jubilee Hysor is suitable for sowing in spring as it is an early maturing broad bean, light green in colour with outstanding quality and flavour.
Broad Bean SUTTON LARGE.
One of the bush varieties Sutton Large is ideal for the smaller garden, as it only grows to 30cm tall, and being a hardy broad bean can be sown early or under cloches or ipoly tunnels in autumn ready for harvesting in June/July.
Broad Bean WITKIEM MANITA.
A spring sown variety whichmatures early but can be sown as late as May. Producing a top quality white broad bean of around 5 per pod, an excellent variety.
Usually when growing beans we tend to plant more than we can actually eat during maturity and this is why I have indicated those which are suitable for freezing, in effect this will allow you to eat green broad beans after the season is over, giving you a “tale” to tell of your freezer being full of beans.