I don’t remember eating these beans as a child, in fact the only beans I knew of were runner beans or baked beans (canned navy beans). I came across them in my late 20s or early 30s and they seemed familiar, but I had no memory of ever buying or eating them.
This is a shame, because once I got to know the humble broad bean, I fell in love with its flavour and versatility. What’s more, when I started gardening, I also fell in love with the ease of growing this productive, yet compact plant.
It’s one of those special plants that are very cool for this one reason: you can overwinter them. This is awesome, because when you come to harvesting the last of your beans, pumpkins, and so on at the end of Autumn, it can often feel a bit depressing that there’ll be no new growth happening for a very long time. And there’s not much you can plant right before Winter. So putting in the broad beans in November is quite an exciting thing, because it means, come Spring, there will (fingers crossed) be a few tall plants that actually look like you’ll be able to get some food out of them soon!
Of course, there are lots of other plants that can be overwintered, or that you would harvest in Winter, such as purple sprouting broccoli, but you can’t really live off broccoli for that long, and let’s face it, unless you’ve covered anything even remotely brassica-related with copious amounts of mesh/netting, then most of it will have been eaten by cabbage whites anyway.
So, stick your broad bean seeds in the ground, down 2″, 6″ apart, and with about 9″ gap between rows. Make a double row and sow some extras in the middle in case not all of the beans germinate, then you can transplant them to any gaps.
I forgot to that this year and now I have a few weird gaps in the double row I made… So I just planted another seed in the gap! Hopefully they’ll come up, but obviously if they do, they’ll be quite far behind in terms of growth/size. But they’ll probably catch up quickly with the warmer weather and higher levels of sunlight hours.
See? They’re simple. You may need to support broad beans slightly when they get to 6″ or so tall. Just poke a stake at either end of the rows and tie string around the outside of your double rows, so the plants can’t fall out. The double row will support itself in the middle as the plants will be near to each other.
Have you tried growing these? Do you even know what they are? Or did you not have a memory of them at all, like me? Let me know in the comments below: