The bean thats not a bean

Broad beans have been in cultivation for thousands of years. In fact, weve been growing them for so long that the cultivated plant has no wild relatives its evolved into a separate species. Broad beans are a kind of vetch, much more closely related to sweet peas than to the common green bean.

These plants are native to cool temperate regions, but they grow well here if we plant them now. Even if you arent fond of them as a vegetable, broad beans are a useful garden plant that adds nitrogen to the soil. If you chop them down and dig them in while young, they also provide a lot of soft, sappy material that breaks down quickly to add to the organic matter in your soil.

Plant broad beans in rich soil into which you have incorporated a good dose of lime. Put the patch somewhere out of the wind, as the tall, top heavy plants blow over easily. In fact, surrounding the whole patch with stakes and wire or twine for support is a good idea.

Broad beans grow quickly and will start flowering when they are about 70cm tall. At that point, watch out for black aphids infesting the growing tips soap spray will deal with them. The flowers are quite sweetly scented and attractive to insects, and the plants will set heavy crops if you let them. I suppose it depends on how much you like broad beans!

Remember that you can pick the very young and tender pods and cook the whole pod, as for green beans. In any case, I would never let the pods mature, as the beans are then quite nasty. Pick them semi-mature, and peel the individual beans before you boil them. Toss the cooked beans with some crisply cooked bacon and garlic yum!


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