Tino Carnevale:

The hum­ble broad bean is not just a great veg­etable for eat­ing, but also makes fan­tas­tic green ma­nure to en­sure your soil stays nice and fer­tile, writes TINO CARNEVALE

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS - with Tino Carnevale

On how great it’s bean to grow fresh ve­g­ies

VICA faba. Some of you may know this sturdy legume as the fava bean, oth­ers as the Wind­sor bean, but I pre­fer the clas­sic broad bean be­cause it en­cap­su­lates ev­ery­thing about this plant.

It screams stur­di­ness, from its square stems to its wide pods. Even the roots are broad. It is easy to have your head turned by some of the other fancy bean types, the sweet crisp­ness of the French bean or the juici­ness of the scar­let run­ner, but the mealy den­sity of this bean has a much more homely ap­peal.

As a plant it is so much more than its tasty fruit. Va­ri­eties such as the scar­let flower fit into the or­na­men­tal gar­den just as well as they do in the vegie patch, and some of the taller va­ri­eties, such as the early long pod, can reach up to 1.5 me­tres in height, mak­ing a great sea­sonal screen.

The masses of but­ter­fly-like flow­ers are not only a feast for the eyes but also have a del­i­cate pea-like flavour.

The hum­ble broad bean is a legume and like other legumes it has the in­cred­i­ble su­per­power that al­lows it to grab ni­tro­gen from the at­mos­phere and store it in nod­ules on its roots.

In my opin­ion broad­ies are one of the

I fluff the soil up like a CWA scone and form mounded rows, plant­ing the seeds in the tops of the mounds

best at this job, mak­ing them a great green ma­nure. Their leaves and fi­brous stalks make great roughage for your soil.

You can plant a crop in au­tumn and early win­ter to be ready for spring, and you can plant again in spring to har­vest through sum­mer.

They are tol­er­ant of many soil types, grow­ing in heav­ier clay quite hap­pily, and they don’t need much in the way of ex­tra food, cer­tainly not ni­tro­gen, so there is no need for blood and bone.

No mat­ter what the sit­u­a­tion, I like to pre­pare the soil for broad­ies by adding some lime and good amounts of com­post and giv­ing it all a good turn.

If you have it to give, these guys love an open sunny po­si­tion, but they will bat­tle on and still pro­duce in part shade.

One thing they don’t like is strong wind be­cause it tends to blow them over.

If, like my gar­den, your place suf­fers

from overzeal­ous gusts of wind, there’s a trick to over­come this. Plant your crop in a block, and be­fore the spring winds come cor­ral your crop by cre­at­ing a mini fence from stakes and twine.

These are large plants and there­fore need their space. If they get it, each plant will pro­duce more for longer, and ven­ti­la­tion is key to con­trol­ling prob­lems such as rust.

Come time to sow I head out with the best in­ten­tions, but my no­to­ri­ety for gen­er­ous seed-sow­ing is not un­founded. In my de­fence I fol­low the old adage of “one for mouse, one for crow, one to die and one to grow”.

This mealy treat is an ob­vi­ous draw for ro­dents and birds, which are very ca­pa­ble of dig­ging up freshly planted seed. I fluff the soil up like a CWA scone and form mounded rows, plant­ing the seeds in the tops of the mounds at a depth of 4-5cm, to about the sec­ond knuckle. “Too deep”, I hear you say, and nor­mally I would agree, but be­ing deeper it of­ten gets over­looked by hun­gry beasts, and as the seed ger­mi­nates and reaches for the sur­face the soil set­tles and drops to just the right level.

Plants that are in ac­tive growth are more ro­bust, so they are less likely to fall prey to the rot sce­nario.

If you soak your seed in wa­ter with a smidge of sea­weed so­lu­tion for about a day it will in­crease the speed of ger­mi­na­tion, so your bean won’t be sit­ting dor­mant for as long in the ground.

The plants will grow steadily through the win­ter, and come mid-Au­gust will start to flower. It may seem like an age be­fore the pods ap­pear, some­times as late as mid-spring, but this is be­cause the weather needs to warm up enough for the bees to come and work their wonder.

I am one of those peo­ple who loves to eat these beans raw off the plant, pods and all, but if you are new to this vegie or if it’s later in the sea­son and the beans are a bit larger, may I sug­gest that you pod and steam them and then re­lieve them of their tough outer skin. The in­ner part of the seed, the cotyle­dons, are ten­der and sweet. Sauteed with a bit of but­ter and gar­lic they can be tossed through a salad or served as a tasty side dish.

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