Vegetable of the Month: Broad Beans

Broad beans are high in dietary fibre, folate, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium & protein. They are also low in cholesterol, saturated fat & sodium so really quite healthy, not to mention tasty!

Vegetable Origins & Varieties

Broad Beans: Vicia faba. Leguminosae

Humans have grown broad beans for over 8,500 years, originally mainly around the Mediterranean - mainly North Africa where they have a saying ‘Beans have satisfied even the Pharaohs’. They are also known and grown in China.

They are a good source of protein but not everyone is a fan, the early Greek Dioscorides wrote that they are ‘flatulent, hard of digestion, causing troublesome dreams’

Most standard varieties like Aquadulce, Imperial Green Windsor and Green Windsor can grow to 1 metre height but here at the Skip garden we grow a dwarf variety The Sutton which does better in our windy site growing to about 30cm. 

Growing tips & Harvesting

Here at the Skip garden we sow broad beans in late summer then they ‘rest’ over the winter flowering early in the spring and setting pods early in the season. This practice means we avoid the issues with blackfly. We also use them as a first crop in our crop rotation system.

Storing & Preparation

Freshly harvested beans will keep for three days, a couple longer if kept in the fridge. However once blanched they can be frozen.

When young, the beans can be eaten straight after podding. However as they age they are best removed from their waxy shell, which is more easily done after blanching the beans in boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Refresh in very cold/ice water.

My favourite Recipes

Broad Bean Dip

1kg Broad beans, podded

2 Cloves garlic

3 tablepoons Olive oil

1 tablespoon Lemon juice

1 handful Parsley

1 small bunch Mint

Blanch & shell beans, then pureé with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and mint. Season with salt & pepper.

Serve with bread or crackers like a hummus.

Broad Bean Salad

150g Pearl barley

300g Broad beans, blanched

1 head of Lettuce

1 tbsp Preserved lemon, finely chopped

15g Mint leaves, shredded

15g Basil leaves, shredded

1 tbsp Lemon juice

60ml Olive oil

Salt and black pepper

60g goat's cheese

Cook the pearl barley until tender, around 30-35 minutes. Drain & cool.

Put the beans in a mixing bowl, add the barley, lettuce, preserved lemon, herbs, lemon juice and olive oil. Stir gently & season to taste.

Transfer the salad to serving bowls and crumble the goat's cheese on top.

Final words

Broad beans also make a great substitute for chickpeas in falafel & go well with a sesame dressing & asparagus. They also make a good soup, risotto or can be fried and salted as a healthy snack. Definitely worth the slightly tiresome podding and shelling!