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Growing and harvesting broad beans

Posted: Monday 12 July 2010
by Adam Pasco

Picking broad beans really is a family affair in the Pasco household. The fat, swollen pods are full of promise and we eagerly pop them open to release the harvest.


Close-up of Adam Pasco holding freshly harvested broad beansPicking broad beans really is a family affair in the Pasco household. The fat, swollen pods are full of promise and we eagerly pop them open to release the harvest.

Much to my wife's surprise, my two children really enjoyed their first taste of broad beans a few years ago. Was this a result of their active participation in bringing in the crop, or did they really enjoy the flavour of their first home-grown broad beans?

More hands certainly make light work of preparing beans and peas for cooking, but you have to time your picking just right. Leave broad beans for too long and you'll notice the 'scar' holding each bean in place inside the pod turns dark brown. This tells me the beans are really past their best, and will have developed tough, inedible skins.

The best beans are younger, and probably slightly smaller, with a creamy white 'scar' attached to each bean. Young beans are delicious, and can be eaten skins and all - unless you have fussy kids like mine who want each bean peeled (well, they're certainly easier to peel than grapes).

But don't despair if your beans have matured more than you would have wanted. Just cook, peel and mash the beans into a tasty puree.

Broad beans are a simple crop to grow, but you do need quite a long row of them if you're going to enjoy a reasonable harvest to feed a family. Once picking is over just cut off their tops at soil level, and leave their roots to break down in the soil.

Sow a leafy salad crop over the area, and the new crop will benefit from the release back into the soil of nitrogen captured in the bean roots by bacteria. This acts like a natural fertiliser created by nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the nodules of bean roots (and other members of the legume family).

It's too late to sow more broad beans now, but dwarf French beans and even runner beans develop quickly over summer to produce a welcome crop later in autumn.



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Gardeners' World Web User 13/07/2010 at 08:59

I must have a go at growing them next year. Can some be sown in the autumn to produce earlier crops?

Gardeners' World Web User 13/07/2010 at 12:10

Growing Broad Beans in my garden is slightly traumatic as the resident Jackdaws will pull up the young seedlings and eat the seed bean, and when the crop is almost ready, they descend in droves and strip the pods of their contents. This year however, a fruit cage has done the trick, still black fly and the lack of water this year to contend with. The end product though, is absolutely marvellous, and the added bonus is nobody else in the family likes them, so they are all mine!!

Gardeners' World Web User 14/07/2010 at 09:38

I've just pulled my first row of beans from the ground, the roots have a covering of nodules, white in colour, crinkly balls, anyone know if these will be OK to compost or do dispose of them??

Gardeners' World Web User 14/07/2010 at 10:38

Reply to kparry: Well spotted. These are the nodules produced on roots containing nitrogen fixing bacteria. These are really beneficial, and so roots can either be left in the soil or added to the compost heap. They'll release nitrogen as they decompose, and this is a useful nutrient that following crops will be able to take up.

Gardeners' World Web User 14/07/2010 at 10:56

what is the best killer to use to kill the roots to bamboo

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