Broad beans are highly nutritious; full of phosphorous, vitamin A and C and highly rich in protein.
One of our oldest bean species dating back to stone age times. Ancient myth refers to them being offered in marriage to ensure the birth of a son. They were such an important staple food that the death sentence was imposed on those thieving them from the fields.
Historically broad beans were roasted and ground to make flour but also enjoyed by the upper classes served with rich sauces.
Depending on the variety sown, they are harvested during the months of May, June and early July when the pods are still pale green, soft and tender. Aquadulce Claudia is a good bean to sow if you want an early crop.
Widely used in mediterranean dishes, often served raw. In Italy, the tender beans are served with the classic Pecorino cheese (made from sheeps milk).
As with most beans, broad beans need to be eaten as soon as possible after picking and stored in the refrigerator, It takes less than an hour for the carbohydrates in the beans turn to sugar which changes the flavour of the bean, often making them bitter. Freezing is a great way to store beans of any species, latest research has led us to understand that peas and beans are just as nutritious after freezing as they are fresh but they must be frozen as soon as possible after picking.
We tend to steam our beans, but young beans can be boiled for about 3-5 minutes. As the beans become older they their outer skins become quite tough, it is best to blanch older beans by adding to boiling water for a minute or so then removing the outer skins when cool. They can then be cooked by steaming or boiling for a couple of minutes when required.
A classic accompaniment is parsley sauce or mixed with a salad, drizzled with an oilve oil dressing and served with shavings of Pecorino or Grana Padano cheese. The versatility of beans means that they can be added to soups and casseroles, added to omlettes and risotto or even made into vegetarian pate and snacks.
This is the first year (probably due to the constantly wet weather) that we have not had a blackfly problem, which often plagues the beans plants. To rid yourself of the problem, simply pinch out the growing tip of the plant once they are the required hight. However, this year we have left our to continue to grow and this has resulted in more flowers and of course more beans. Picking the beans from the bottom of the plant first, as soon as they are ready ensures a constant crop as the plant tries desperately to set seed.
Let us know how your broad bean harvest is going…