Ode to the Broad Bean

Windsor broad beans

Magic Beans

The magic of the broad bean is something new to me. I had first learned about broad beans a couple of years ago, while living in Grande Prairie and obsessively watching gardening shows, when I stumbled upon a BBC show called The Edible Garden, with Alys Fowler (that you can/should watch here.) In the episode, she grows some broad beans and makes some yummy falafels with them. Neat. So when I was browsing my seed catalog for my first garden here at Ferngully, I obviously had to order some. I think they were some West Coast Seeds... Must have been. And last year they were lovely, but all I did was blanch and freeze them to eat in stews and borscht during the winter. And they kept so beautifully and would really round out a soup that was mostly freezer burnt kale with a jar of canned tomatoes from the garden. And at the end of the gardening season I simple left the plant stock in the ground, since they make a wonderful green manure. So this wonderful broad bean had won my heart in more ways then one and was at the top of my fave plant list. 


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Ah, the Experimental garden in all it's glory and it's weeds.

Ah, the Experimental garden in all it's glory and it's weeds.

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So this year I went all out and ordered a big bag of Windsor broad beans from West Coast Seeds and picked up some broad beans and coffee fava beans from the annual seed exchange in Clearwater, BC. I planted some out in the garden in April. Yeah. April. Ha ha. Quite early here since the general planting rule is to not plant before May Long Weekend, but I read that you can plant peas in the ground as soon as the ground is soft enough to plant in and you didn't have to wait for the last frost, so I figured, why not broad beans. So I planted them in my "experimental" garden, where I essentially planted loads of things in April that I shouldn't have with the hopes that they would grow. An experiment of sorts. Anywho, I planted the rest of the broad beans in trays in my unheated greenhouse in early May. Then they went out in the "good" garden, which was not an experiment and had the best soil of the two gardens. And in no time, those plants grew a few feet tall and were making fruit. 

With onions and carrots still small, the broad bean was strong and ready to pick!

With onions and carrots still small, the broad bean was strong and ready to pick!

The Bounty

The broad bean harvest thus far has been abundant. Honestly, these plants are so wonderful to watch grow. It worked out well that some where planted in April, while others were planted later because it has been hard to find the time to harvest and preserve the beans as it is now, and if they had all come in at once it would have been a bit much for me. So far the Windsor broad beans are still the magical bean they were last year. The pods are large and soft and the beans inside are tender and large. The coffee fava bean has a darker, more "coffee" like seed, but is lovely to peel with only two seeds per pod. More work for the reward, but still rewarding none-the-less. 


I have been blanching and freezing most of the beans, since there are so many, but I have made a couple of batches of falafels so far and they are a hit. So easy and yummy. I made up my own recipe using what I had in the garden and the cupboard, but Alys Fowler has one in the video linked above, or you can check out this one, that is close. I added an egg to mine. This morning we had a frittata with broads beans in it as well. I think the beans would have benefited from a quick boil before being added to the egg mixture, but, I mean, a fresh veg omelette with a little crunch never hurt anyone, right? The beans themselves don't have the sweet flavour that you might find in a fresh pea, but they have their own nutty taste that is singular to the broad bean. Alone, a raw broad bean might not be the tasty snack you are looking for, but chopped in a salad or added to a buddha bowl, they can really round out a dish.

Other Uses

The broad beans are still producing even though it is now late August and some stalks have fallen over and I thought I had picked every last pod there was. The bees seem to really like their black and white flowers, so maybe they will keep producing as long as the weather allows. And I guess I will keep picking them as the weather allows too. And when the stalks all fall over, I will leave them where they fall so they can break down and help build up my soil. Like the pea, they help fix nitrogen in the soil so that makes them a total leader in our garden in more ways then one. I haven't saved seeds from my broad beans this year. And next year I think I will order some from a seed saver in Saskatchewan that had a booth at the Clearwater Seed Exchange. But for now, I will enjoy this beautiful plant for all its uses in my home and garden.

So what do you think? Do you want to try growing a broad bean? 

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