Thursday 19 October 2017

Grow your own body fuel: Broad beans

Michael Kelly

Why grow them?

Broad beans are generally the first legume to produce a crop, making them one of the first new-season crops of the year. Arguably they are not as tasty as peas or French beans, but they are very easy to grow and prolific, and they freeze well.

Sow

Many GIYers sow "early" broad beans in the autumn for a late spring crop, but only do so if your soil is good – they won't fare so well in wet, heavy clay. Alternatively sow in February for early summer crop. Dig in some well rotted manure before sowing. Broad beans are hardy so you can sow direct in the soil, or you can sow in module trays for transplanting later. Either way, sow 5cm deep. Transplant to 15cm apart. Sow extra seeds to provide spares in case some get eaten or fail to germinate.

Grow

Weed and water frequently. A mulch is a good idea around the base of the plants to preserve moisture. Pinch out the top growing shoot when the plant starts to set pods. Support the plants with individual stakes or canes. Alternatively, enclose a row of broad bean plants within a ring of twine strung between canes (this will stop them from toppling over).

Harvest

The key is to keep picking 'em! The more you pick the more they will produce. Start cropping from the bottom of each plant and work your way up. Marvel at the beautiful white fleece inside the pod. The beans inside are at their best when the membrane attaching them to the pod is green or white, not brown.

GIY recommended varieties

Aquadulce, witkeim.

Problems

The biggest problem for broad beans is the blackfly, which will be clearly visible at the top of the plant and stunt its growth. Pinching out the growing tip helps to prevent them.

GIY tips

* Broad beans are sweeter when small and in fact, you can eat the whole pod when they are 2-3cm.

* When the plant has finished cropping, cut the plant out but leave the root in the soil. Broad beans are nitrogen fixers – they take nitrogen from the air and fix it in the soil, which will be good for crops that will be planted there next year.

Watch GIY tutorials on growing vegetables at www.giyireland.com/videos

Irish Independent

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