Broad beans

Posted: Friday 2 March 2012
by Kate Bradbury

Yesterday I marked the first day of the month by visiting the allotment and sowing broad beans – the first seeds I had sown this year.

Recently harvested broad beans

Yesterday I marked the first day of the month by visiting the allotment and sowing broad beans – the first seeds I had sown this year. 

I love broad beans. I would happily eat them with every summer meal, if I could ever grow enough of them. By now I’ve normally got a few rows of stubby plants on the go, following an autumn sowing. But not this year.

Nevermind, I've now sown two rows of ‘Express’, a variety which promise to “out-yield other varieties”. The soil is warm and the sun is shining, so germination should be swift. It normally takes about 100 days between a spring sowing and harvesting, so by my reckoning I’ve got 99 days to go.

I’d never eaten broad beans until I took on my first allotment. To me, this makes them all the more special – they’re not just delicious, they symbolise how wonderful growing your own is, and remind me of how I felt, aged 24, entering the magical world of allotmenteering.

I took my first plot on in September 2005, and was the youngest person on the allotments by about 30 years. I spent the first few weeks clearing brambles, then my dad sent me some broad bean seeds and told me to sow them (“you can’t sow anything else, love”). I didn’t think I’d like them, but did as I was told.

The seeds didn’t germinate immediately, so I dug them up to have a look. Some had developed a radicle (embryonic root), but many appeared to have been eaten by something – bearing the tell-tale shotholes of broad bean seed beetle. I covered them up again and sowed some more. It was November by this point, in Manchester, and I was sowing into heavy clay soil.

Still, most seeds eventually germinated into stubby plants that battled through the ravages of frost and snow. I developed respect for these hardy little beans, which would one day yield a crop I didn't think I'd want to eat.

Spring came, and I planted potatoes into frozen soil, attempted to grow onions from seed, and sowed radishes into a seed tray, to transplant later. Everyone laughed. But I didn’t care; it's good to learn by your mistakes.

By June I had a crop of broad beans and a handful of spuds (which I harvested too soon). I took them home and ate my first allotment meal – tiny new potatoes with broad beans, a sprig of mint and a knob of butter. It tasted great, and felt amazing.

Discuss this blog post

Talkback: Broad beans
Your comment will appear after a quick registration step

oldchippy 02/03/2012 at 16:57

Hi Kate ,That's what gardening is all about,Who care's more than the gardener,


Kitchen Godess! 08/03/2012 at 10:03

Hi Kate ,
I have also planted my first Broad Beans out in the veg garden I am trying to create, no idea what I am doing so have also planted some in degradable pots in the polytunnel which is also a first for me. Hoping I get some success . I am very eager to plant all sorts of veg but worried about conditions. Any advise?


geoff fearn 11/03/2012 at 16:35

I have grown Sutton as they seem to be the best for my garden and I like the small beans,
If you do not try diffident ways of gardening then how will you ever find the best for your ground so keep trying diffident ways and who know you might start a new trend

Poolcue 11/03/2012 at 17:38

Unfortunately this year my Bunyard Exhibition are showing no signs of life,but I have some Aquadulce that have broken this soil and will be planted up at the allotment when the weather is suitable

happymarion 01/04/2012 at 21:42

Hello,Kate. I have two oblongs with six broad bean plants in each now over a foot tall in my first potager raised bed, I put canes at each corner and twine round the canes as they are "Aquadulce. I sowed them in Feb. in the conservatory. I still get a great thrill out of making a whole meal from garden produce I have grown myself, and now I am getting even more pleasure from arranging my plants artistically in my raised beds which are so easy to manage.

See more comments...