Growing potatoes and broad beans

by Lila Das Gupta

... I am just about to sow broad beans. This will be the first time I've grown them in the back garden, which I hope will mean I can keep on top of any blackly infestations ...

Broad bean seedlingReaders of this blog may recall that I have recently 'delegated' the compost-making in the family to my husband. He's so taken by his new role that I sometimes catch him slipping gardening books into his shoulder bag in the morning to read on the train.

Not one to miss an opportunity, I decided this might be a good time to 'share' the management of the whole allotment and make him a co-director. He was thrilled.

"I don't suppose you want to bother with borlotti beans", I ventured. What followed was a full and frank discussion about our individual approaches to vegetable growing (I had no idea he was harbouring such deep resentment over the scarcity of kale). So, it looks as if, under the power-sharing agreement, the allotment will be used for growing 'belt and braces' veg like potatoes, cabbage, carrots and onions. Our raised beds at home will be used for growing what he views as culinary cul-de-sacs like broad beans and courgettes.

One thing we both agree on is potatoes - we both love them in their infinite variety and we believe there is nothing that tastes as good as a home-grown spud fresh from the earth.

One of our new favourites is an extraordinary potato variety we grew last year called 'Mayan Twilight'. The taste is so intensely 'potatoey', it's unlike anything I've ever eaten before (others in the series like 'Mayan Gold', are equally distinctive). This is a great potato for kitchen gardeners to have in their repertoire, to pull out when something punchy to add contrast or balance is needed. I like them in Salad Ni├žoise with fresh grilled tuna, or to accompany Hungarian goulash or any other robust winter stew. A bowl of steamed Mayan Twilights with a knob of melted butter also goes well with a roast dinner, intensifying the sweetness of the meat.

Closer to home, I am just about to sow broad beans. This will be the first time I've grown them in the back garden, which I hope will mean I can keep on top of any blackly infestations, which so often plague them.

For autumn sowing, 'Aquadulce Claudia' and 'The Sutton' are ideally suited, the latter being a more compact variety. I'm going for a bit of colour that will contrast with the wallflowers, so I've chosen 'Crimson Flowered' broad beans. I'm also going to try Red Epicure, which have dark, reddish beans.

Whatever my co-director thinks, as far as I'm concerned variety is the spice of life.

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Gardeners' World Web User 30/10/2009 at 16:26

We grew beans and potatoes this year for the first time and we quickly realized that we didn't grow near enough. They were so much better than anything we'd gotten at the store. I love my gardening time with my wife, too. She's my best friend and it's so nice to get out to the backyard and work together. Yeah, sometimes we bicker a bit, but that's just part of it and we both enjoy our time together.

Gardeners' World Web User 30/10/2009 at 19:39

Beware of mice!!! I can't sow broad beans in the winter as mice soon find them. Watch out for little holes over the top of each planted bean. In fact I have to put them in in early summer to avoid this and still lose some. Good luck

Gardeners' World Web User 31/10/2009 at 08:30

Waggers, if you're worried about mice, try growing them in pots and then planting out when the plants are small. The first crop I ever tried at my allotment failed to come through (apart from one bean) and resowing didn't help as they were scoffed too (not that I knew this being a novice). Pots have saved the day.

Gardeners' World Web User 02/11/2009 at 12:29

Crimson flowered broad beans! What are they called and where can I get them?? They sound just right for my front garden - to go with the multicoloured swiss chard and the artichokes and the purple and yellow french beans. Any other colourful ideas gratefully accepted.

Gardeners' World Web User 02/11/2009 at 17:08

They are called Broad Bean : Crimson Flowered and you can get them from Thompson & Morgan

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