Around this time each year, I harvest my broad bean (Vicia faba) crop.
Broad beans are also known as fava bean, faba bean, field bean, bell bean, or tic bean. Whatever you call this wonderful bean where you live, it never ceases to amaze with its abundant production in such a small plot. This year was no exception on my suburban food farm.
I sowed the seed back in early April (start of our Autumn) very densely into a 2.8 m2 area. Seeds were spaced about a hand span apart, as were the rows. All the seeds germinated and grew into 2 metre (6 1/2 ft) tall bean stalks. Due to all of the strong winds we had during September and October, most of the stalks have fallen over. I kept on watering them, and they in return kept on growing.
As the pods fill and all the flowers are gone, it is time to harvest. I cut the stalk off near the ground and leave the roots in the soil. This is because each root fibre has nitrogen nodules attached which will rot into the soil, leaving behind soluble nitrogen that will be taken up by the next crop. The rest of the organic matter rots providing other essential nutrients. I keep the three largest stalks laden with bean pods and hang them upside down under cover to dry out so that I can collect the seeds for next season. I store the dried beans in a glass jar until planting.
So here is my harvest. A big wicker laundry basket of broad bean pods. It was quite heavy. The stalks were thrown into the chicken run for the girls to scratch through, and the empty pods into the compost bin.
I set myself up in my favourite comfy outdoor lounge chair, and commenced shelling beans. I must say that there is nothing quite as relaxing and rewarding as spending a couple of hours doing this task (well maybe I can think of one other task).
The shelled beans weighed in at 2.9 kg (6.4 lbs). That is massive for such a small plot. Over the years, I have recorded my bean crop. Here it is for prosperity (if you’re interested).
- 2013 – 2.9 kg
- 2012 – 1.7 kg
- 2011 – 2.1 kg
- 2010 – 3.6 kg
- 2009 – 1.8 kg
- 2008 – 1.9 kg
All crops were from exactly the same sized plot. I can account for the variation, which is due to how wet the winter was. The more rainfall, the bigger the crop. Go figure! Amazing stuff that water.
Anyway, we ate some raw, which is much more nutritious than cooked broad beans by a factor of about 50, however because they don’t keep well in the fridge, we blanch and freeze the beans for stews and casseroles in autumn and winter. I especially love them in my pressure cooker version of Minestrone.
If you want to read about how I blanch broad beans then click through. It is a great way to save some when you have a glut.
Did anyone else grow Vicia faba this year? Do you have any favourite ways of cooking them?