Broad Beans are one of the easiest vegetables to cultivate. With a minimum of effort by the grower, plants will yield a substantial harvest from the end of May to early October.
Also known as the Fava Bean, Faba Bean or Field Bean, the tall upright plant produces long leathery pods, inside which is the kidney shaped broad bean.
A perfectly adequate crop can be achieved in almost any reasonable soil, but ideally the plant needs a free draining rich soil to produce at its best.
Early varieties such as ‘Aquadulce‘ or ‘Sutton‘ can be sown in late autumn, to over winter and produce a very early crop. This requires a very free draining soil and a sheltered spot, in a mild location.
Alternatively sow in pots or modules, around early February germinating them in a cold frame. These can be planted out when they are hardened off at the beginning of March about 8 inches apart.
The seed hates being in cold wet compost and will rot rather than germinate at the first signs of over watering.
Main crop varieties can be sown at monthly intervals up to the end of May to give successional crops through out the season.
A very undemanding vegetable to care for, apart from keeping the weeds down around the plants and watering as the pods form in very dry conditions.
The taller varieties (up to 4 ft) and some of the smaller dwarf ones as well, will invariably need some form of support. There are lots of ways to provide this but my favored way is to position a stake at the end of each row and string between the posts at 1ft intervals.
Pinch out the top three inch of growing tip of each plant as the first beans start to form, this will help combat the Black Fly pest that feed on the young shoots.
The beans are at their best and ready to harvest as the definition of the bean starts to show through the pod.
Care needs to be taken when picking the crop as the stems can be easily damaged, a downward twisting motion applied to the bean is usually sufficient to separate it from the stem. If all else fails cut them off individually with secateurs.