Beans Glorious Beans

broad bean pods
Broad bean pods

Broad beans are one of my most reliable vegetable crops and I am usually rewarded with a rich harvest – enough to eat during the summer and sufficient to freeze as one of our winter staples. They are one of those vegetables that you either love or hate – eat them small with just a little melted butter with a garnish of finely chopped mint or parsley, stirred into pasta, risotto, couscous or quinoa, in salads with radishes and salty goats cheese or serve the more mature beans in a rich parsley sauce with ham or in garlicky purée with black pudding (preferably Stornoway black pudding). Delicious with fish but divine with bacon.

In my windy garden the best variety is The Sutton, it does not require staking and although only 12 inches (30 cm) tall it produces plenty of pods from its beautiful white and purple flowers. The flowers have the most heavenly perfume and are just the right size for our bumblebees.

I sow the seeds on cardboard tubes full of compost in the polytunnel in April or May, depending on the whether it is a warm or cool spring, and these are hardened-off as soon as the first true leaves appear. Again depending on the weather I have either two or three sowings, sometimes four in a good year, and try to harvest the pods regularly to ensure a continued supply of small tender beans.

The cold spring and an enforced absence in August resulted in a frantic picking of the entire crop in two days before the onset of the first autumn gale. So this year I have rather more mature large beans than normal. These still freeze well and are perfect for use in the more robust winter dishes, but it is necessary to remove the tough outer skins before use. As the freezer was full, I decided that I would try to dry some of the beans. Normally beans are left to dry on plants, but this is not an option in this part of the world and even drying the pods in the shed in our moist coastal atmosphere is probably not a viable option. So I experimented with putting beans on a rack in the warming draw of the oven, but this wasn’t a success, so it was a case of trying to squeeze more beans into the freezer.


Berber Broad Bean Purée (Byssara)

Fresh Broad Bean Purée with Herbs

7 thoughts on “Beans Glorious Beans

  1. Thanks for the recipes, we have a glut of beans and I’ve been looking for ways to get the most out of them.

    • Fortunately I love beans so I’m always looking for new recipes. They are incredibly versatile and go well with a wide range of herbs and spices.

  2. Your post was disappearing under a heap of emails and nearly lost – sorry! I am still undecided whether to stick some broad beans in next year, but this has nearly persuaded me 😉 Have you ever bottled them? I guess it would be possible, and like me with drying apples it all saves freezer space. Shame you had no tender little ones, but you had tender older things to attend to instead.

    • When I was a young wife and polishing my housewifely skills I tried bottling fruit. I obviously did not do a very good job as it fermented and I still have nightmares about the explosive aftermath. I vowed never again and concentrated on wine making! However, I like the look of the dehydrating gadget in your recent post on drying apples and will investigate further.

      • I haven’t bottled for years either, but freezers are bigger and better these days anyway. The dehydrator is a tidier and cleaner way than using the oven, but the cookers are still not properly dry after 9 hours. They didn’t take anything like that in the Aga 🙁 The eating apples took 6 and are yummy.

  3. I LOVE broad beans too! A bit time consuming to cook with but worth it. I like them with feta and mint mmMMMMmmmm 🙂

    • They’re amazingly versatile and combine well with so many herbs and spices.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.