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I know… you hate broad beans. Perhaps they were served to you as a kid… boiled to within an inch of their lives, until they were the colour, taste and texture of cardboard.
But have you tried eating them when they are picked young? Take them from their pod before the tough coat has had a chance to form on the beans. They are the colour of fresh spring leaves, and are light in flavour. There’s nothing better than cooking up some spaghetti or fettuccine, toss this in a hot pan with fresh broad beans, garlic, sea salt, olive oil, ground pepper, some anchovies and serve with shaved parmesan. Mmmm… a true spring treat.
Broad beans are great to grow in autumn and winter. Mature plants are frost hardy too. Sow them from late summer through autumn and winter. The beans take 3 months to mature, so you’ll normally have your broad bean eating frenzy in spring. Plant them in blocks so the plants support each other, and you may need to tie string around them to keep them upright (especially in the case of the taller varieties). Broad beans are easy when planted from seed. They are large seeds, so they are easy to handle (great for kids!) and you get loads from a pack. Plant the seeds 5cm deep and water them in well. You won’t need to water them again until you see their heads pop up (unless it’s abnormally hot or windy.)
Broad beans are not hungry crops, so you only need to lightly manure the soil. Sprinkle around some dolomite or garden lime and fork through the soil. Pinching out the tips after the first flowers appear will encourage the pods to set. I love the broad bean flowers, they’re white and black. So very unusual.
Two tried and true old fashioned varieties are:
Aquadulce – has long, well filled pods with a nutty flavour.
Coles Dwarf – A heavy cropper with long pods to 20cm but on a shorter plant, may not need tying if planted into a block.