Broad beans are very nutritious, full of protein and vitamins. They are tasty when cooked in a variety of dishes or eaten raw in salads. You can also eat the fresh shoots of the broad bean plant.
Broad beans are a good cropper, so you get plenty of produce and they do not take up much space to grow them.
Planting Broad Beans
Broad beans will grow in most types of free draining garden soil. Some varieties are taller than others, so it is a good idea to choose a position that is protected from wind.
Broad beans can be sown in autumn and spring, sown directly into garden soil at the end of March, or approximately mid-October. However, some regions of the UK might not be warm enough for an autumn sowing. If you are sowing broad beans in autumn, the ground must be warm enough for the seeds to germinate, a minimum of 7͘°C. Using a cloche will help to keep the soil a degree or so warmer.
Make a hole that is 2 inches deep and just big enough to put in the seed. Cover it with soil, firm gently and give it a water.
The broad beans seeds should be spaced approximately 9 inches apart, although it can be less for less vigorous varieties.
Broad beans can also be sown in pots. It is important that the pots are kept somewhere cool, otherwise the seed will not germinate. Outside is best. Once they are 3-4 inches tall, they can be planted out into the garden.
Caring for Broad Bean Plants
For taller varieties of broad bean, supports are needed as the plant grows. Push some strong wooden steaks/posts into the soil around the outside edges of where you have planted your seeds. As the plants grow, twine can be put around the steaks to help support them as they grow. Shorter varieties do not need supporting.
As the pods begin to develop, pinch out the tips of the plant so it can put more energy into growing the beans, rather than leafy growth.
Harvesting and Storing Broad Beans
Broad beans are ready to eat once the beans inside the pod are large enough, usually when the pod is approximately 3 or 4 inches long. Gently pull or snip the whole pod from the stem.
Fresh beans will keep for a week in the pods. If you have harvested older beans that have tough skins, blanch in hot water for 3-4 minutes. Once cooled, remove the skins before eating.
Broad beans freeze well, so if you have a good crop you can store them to enjoy throughout the winter.