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
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.