13 Sep 2013

Broad Beans - Top of the Pods

Picked beans

The weekend before last, during a big garden tidy up, the last of the dried broad bean pods were cut for seed and the plants dug up and added to the compost. It's been a strange year for broad beans as they're usually cleared well before now but I was harvesting beans until end of July (maybe I sowed later) and there's even a couple of plants that are resprouting having been earlier hacked in half by kids playing sword-fighting with my canes. (Grrr.) This year I grew two varieties of broad bean; the Karmazyn beans from last year and a crimson flowered heritage bean for colour.

Shelled beans

cooked and peeled
Heritage beans on left, Karmazyn on the right. 

Karmazyn is a variety with white flowers, green pods and pink beans. The beans are rounded, heart shaped and sit apart in the pod so there's usually no more than 4 or 5 to a pod. (The heritage pods are firmer and smaller.)  Once shelled and deskinned, the young Karmazyn beans are the most beautiful bright green. Last year's end of season pods contained inedible but useful beans that were dried and saved as seeds for this year and all germinated from an early March sowing.

I sow my broad beans in spring (rather than autumn) so when I bought some Heritage red flowering bean seeds earlier this year, I was still in time to sow those as well. I wanted to grow them alongside the Karmazyn to see if there's a difference, other than flower colour. There were subtle differences,  mainly in the taste, with the Karmazyn beans being sweeter and nuttier. (Some of my seeds were given to a friend working at the local City Farm and he agreed about the taste, finding it very pleasant.) The heritage crimson beans had a more pronounced bean flavour and were slightly harder and more floury in texture after cooking. As a recent convert to liking broad beans, I prefer the Karmazyn beans.

The plants all grew vigorously to the same height.  Karmazyn were slightly quicker off the mark but perhaps they'd adapted to my growing conditions as they were grown from saved seed.  A few of the crimson flowered beans didn't germinate whereas, like last year, the Karmazyn beans all grew. The flowers have been so beautiful:

White flowers for pink beans

Crimson heritage bean flowers

and, strangely, also from the crimson heritage beans, striped pink flowers ... lovely!

Pink striped bean flower

In 2012 the beans weren't troubled at all by black aphids; I put this down to the nasturtiums that I grew around the edge of the bed. This year, one or two plants were heavily invaded (temporarily, as I was on squish alert) despite some lovely Milkmaid nasturtiums appearing by their sides.

Nasturtium

As the pods started to plump up, I pinched off all the tops so that the plants put their energy into the pods.  I steamed the tops with a few of the de-podded beans for supper -  they were delicious with just a trickle of butter and grinding of salt and pepper.  Well worth remembering for next time as I've composted the tops in the past.

I've managed to save a couple of large bags of parboiled beans for the freezer but I'm already looking forward to  next year's crop.  My Veg Planner advises that broad beans can be sown in October and November and then again in January.  I usually sow in early spring, i.e. late Feb/early March, but this year, I'll give an autumn sowing a go, protect the seedlings over winter with cloche protection, and see if that makes for an early harvest next year.

Broad beans 25th June
My little patch of broad beans in June this year.

33 comments:

  1. I sowed my broad beans in autumn and they'd made lovely strong plants by spring. Unfortunately, the cold start to the year delayed getting them planted out and this put the plants back. They did recover though and went on to provide a good crop. I've decided that I prefer other beans to broad beans so I'm not going to grow them again, at least not next year. I do like your crimson flowered beans, they're so pretty.

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    1. I have wondered about trying an autumn sowing this year, Jo, although I'd sow the seeds straight into one of my raised beds. The weather is so unpredictable that it would be a real gamble to get them to survive a long or wet winter. I have quite a bit of saved seed so I could always resow if things didn't go to plan! In a normal year, I'd be eating broad beans early and french beans later - I like them all! One of the reasons that I grew the heritage beans was for the red flowers - it's a real splash of early colour in the veg patch!

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  2. Your bean harvest looks wonderful, I will look forward to see what you say about an autumn sowing as I have always sown in the spring.

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    1. Thanks, Pauline - it's nice to be able to look back at the photos and see that there were some successes this year! An autumn sowing will provide some interest - and hopefully, plants! - and give me something to write about during the long winter!

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  3. What an interesting post. I usually grow spring sown broad beans and have had both good and bad, blackfly infested, years. Plot neighbours who grow autumn sown ones tend to lose some and find that they're only a few weeks earlier when it comes to picking. Flighty xx

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    1. Ah! Thanks for that advice, Flighty. I'm now wondering if your plot neighbours put any protection over their bean patches? Even a few weeks earlier would make for a springtime treat! You can be sure that I'll be writing about the progress! Cx

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  4. Lovely looking broad beans, one of my favourites!

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    1. Thanks Damo! My favourites too! So much nicer when home grown, you know what flavour to expect!

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  5. Beautiful nasturtiums, I shall look for them next year. Your beans look fantastic. I'm always interested to see what varieties people recommend. Good luck with the autumn sowing. I've tried it in the past, and it worked well when the winter wasn't too harsh.

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    1. Hello CJ, thanks - I think my original nasturtium seeds came from Sarah Raven's shop at Perch Hill. Now, of course, they just self-seed all over the place - and I'm happy for them to do that! I'm usually so relieved at having a bit of time off in the winter months but this year I want to try and keep it going so have just ordered Charles Dowding's book 'How to grow winter veg' for a bit of inspiration!

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  6. My BBs did appallingly badly this year, and the yield was very low, so I'm inordinately jealous of those fine specimens you have grown! I've never been tempted to sow BBs in the Autumn. I can't see them doing very well when we have Winters like the 2012/2013 one!

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    1. No, I've never autumn sown my beans, Mark, which is why I thought it might be worth giving it a go just to see what happens. I put my beans in a raised bed so the roots would grow in quite free draining soil - it's the wet (rather than cold) that will prevent them growing during the winter ... and if it doesn't work, there's always the following spring!

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  7. I'm not far from you. Last year I had a much better year with my broad beans and while the blackfly invaded, it was late enough in the season that the ladybirds saw them off very quickly. This year the blackfly hit week before the appearance of ladybirds - I blame the cold spring.

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    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for commenting! I had the same problem - too many aphids for the ladybirds to control but I don't mind squishing them. It's the ants caretaking the aphids that I'd like to be less numerous! Although the winter was cold, and 2012 summer a wash out, there's no denying that this year has been great for fruit and veg!

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  8. We are saving seed from the red/purple flowered beans. Do you think yours may have cross pollinated to produce the stripy flowers?

    Strangely our beans never seem to suffer from blackfly - oh dear I do wish I hadn't said that!

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    1. Haha, fingers crossed, Sue! Cross pollination is certainly a possibility but it would have happened to the parent beans, I think? Who knows! The beans were both lovely to look at and to eat!!

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    2. It would have happened to the parent so maybe some of the ones I collected will turn out stripy as the red and white flowered beans were next to one another.

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  9. I'm agreeing with Mark here, my harvest was woeful.

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    1. ... aah, but we're optimists and there's always next year! If something doesn't come up to expectations, I always wonder why. I planted late when things had warmed up a bit rather than leaving my seeds to freeze in the ground - fully expecting that I'd left things really too late. I always think it's worth a try though! Better luck next year Elaine!

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  10. Your broad beans look most happy and healthy Caro. I like the sound of the Karmazyn beans. I've usually sown broad beans in the spring and was a bit late getting them in this year. I've tried autumn sowing before and may have another go this year. Worth a go in case we have a mild winter and then if we do it's something off the spring sowing list. Along with broad beans thoughts of new potatoes and bacon are now flitting through my mind and it's still too early for lunch :)

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    1. Thanks, Anna! I won't mind another cold winter as I think it did the garden good (even if it meant heating bills were a bit on the heavy side!) I'm going to try quite a bit of autumn sowing this year - it all gets a bit much in the spring! And I've already decided on which potatoes to grow next year!!

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  11. I only wish there were a crimson-flowered variety that produced pink beans. Otherwise it means I'm going to have to buy both of these for next year… (and my seed tin really can't take much more).

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    1. Karmazyn beans are only pink skinned - and turn the most awful blue-grey shade when cooked! Very unappetising! Once shelled, though, they are bright green, sweet and nutty - well worth buying! I'll look forward to seeing what you've decided!

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  12. What a wonderful blog you have here. Thanks so much for dropping by....I shall be enjoying following you.xxxx

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    1. Hello snowbird, thank you for your lovely comment - It's nice to see what fellow bloggers are writing about!

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  13. What pretty nasturtiums! I've never seen that colour before.

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    1. Hello Hannah, I think I bought this variety from Sarah Raven, along with another nasturtium called Black Velvet. I thought the dark burgundy and cream would go well together. Sadly the darker flower didn't thrive (I have one seed left!) but the Milkmaid nasturtiums now self seed every year, providing a contrast to the orange ones. I love them! (I could definitely send you some seeds if you wanted some - I know I'll have plenty! - just send me an email) :)

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  14. An interesting and inspiring blog. So lovely. I love gardening, and I live in urban area. Thank you for sharing. I invite you to visit my blog.
    Endah
    Indonesia

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    1. Hello Endah, lovely to meet you and thanks for commenting! Your love of gardening shines through in your lovely blog. I loved seeing what you've done with your back garden veg plot - it's an inspiration to container gardeners! I'll look forward to reading more!

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  15. Was going to say they're pretty late! Mine were all over in May/June and am amazed that yours are still producing. When in spring did you sow them?

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    1. I have to confess I didn't make a note of the sowing date, Tanya - I would have written in on the back of a label stuck into the soil. I recall the weather in February and March was dreadful (still snowing) and that I was sowing on the basis that the weather was at least one month behind so I may well have put my beans in during early April!! Quite late, but then it was very chilly then also. Your questions has reminded me that I must write things down!

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    2. Hi Caro,

      My few decades of experience overwintering beans seems to deny any possibility of predicting which crop will suffer from blackfly and how much - I think a lot depends on how the ladybirds have responded to the season by the time the aphids arrive. A good ladybird year means a good bean year (especially ladybird larvae that stay on the plants and eat for England).

      My strategy is to sow in October AND November and I also sow the better-flavoured green-seeded varieties in March (Crimson Flowered is NOT a flavour variety - selecting for anything except flavour always means flavour goes out the window).

      Anyway the punch line is that every year one of the three sowings comes out 90% clear, but each year it's a different one.

      Give it a try - I try to sow 2/3 of my requirement each of the 3 times to be sure.

      Regards.

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    3. Wow, fabulous and informative comment with really good advice. I always have a spare empty bed in spring time so I'm tempted to go for a variety of sowings, as suggested. Thanks for commenting, wish I knew who you were, sounds as though you're familiar with my blog!

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Caro x

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