Friday, May 28, 2010

Broadly Speaking

My Grandfather used to bring a brown paper bag of broad beans to the nursery when I first started working here.  "Uncle Dave" had long since retired from active nursery work but he came in weekly, as long as he wasn't warming himself at Broadbeach and tidied around the office.  This included a little mowing and gardening.  I never quite understood his passion for his 'Beefsteaks' but I have come to realize that broad beans are a real marker of genuine vegie gardeners.

My Grandfather "Uncle Dave" Wood with my daughter Emma.  Emma is in year 11 now, she won't thank me for using this pic.

And while I still can't get excited over a plate of boiled beans (and let's not even think about baked beans from a can) I have learned that broad beans are an extraordinarily versatile vegetable.  Kerry mushes them up with Mediterranean spices to make magnificent falafels and I once had a fava bean paste as a butter substitute at a fancy restaurant, I can't remember how they made it but I guess it wasn't much more than beans, olive oil and seasoning.... to die for!  I think the name fava bean is more common in the US than broad bean (Hannibal Lecter liked then with liver, but we won't go there), broad bean is seriously uninspiring as names go but at least it's better than horse bean.  All of these are the same thing.

From a gardeners perspective the great thing about broad beans is you can plant them now!  Timing is ideal, the plants will develop through the winter and set their fruit (the pod is the fruit, the bean is a seed) while they do all that manic growing in spring.  This is important if you want to produce tender beans in that odd period where we are busy planting but not much else is ready to harvest.

The other great thing about broad beans is that they are very quick and easy to grow.  There is very little that Melbourne weather can do to upset them unless it gets very wet and miserable which can encourage fungal diseases.  The recommendation is to space them at least 15cm apart and a good 40cm between rows to allow air to circulate and prevent the disease getting established.  Watch our for Aphids in spring they just love succulent growing tips.  Of course soil needs to be thoroughly prepared or they can be grown in large containers with premium potting mix.  We grow a variety called Cole's Dwarf which grows to about 1m tall making it easy to harvest and great for containers.

Harvesting?  Beans should be ready in about 10 weeks from planting.  Picked very young (little finger sized or smaller) they can be cooked and eaten pod and all. More commonly they are shelled and eaten fresh or they can be dried.  A good tip is to pick your beans while the membrane attaching them to the pod is still green, once it starts to change colour the beans will be too mature and they start to get hard and chalky.

Either way, it's time for planting.

1 comment:

  1. Yes ours are growing so well nice and strong have 4 pots growing in staggered fashion


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