Broad Beans

Broad Beans

The broad bean or fava bean (Vicia faba) can have a reputation for being tough, however if picked young, they are very tender and sweet. One of the hardiest of all the beans. They are an easy crop to grow requiring very little care and attention once established. Although very tasty, they do provide a fairly low yield for the amount of space required.

How to Cook >> Popular Varieties

Growing Conditions

Soil Type: Moderately fertile, deeply dug, heavish soil.

Conditions: Full sun.

Ease of Cultivation: Easy.

Type: Legume (Podded) Vegetable.

When to Sow: Autumn or early spring.

Harvest: Approximately 26 weeks after sowing.

Planting and Growing Broad Beans

Preparation

Broad beans prefer a heavy soil that is high in organic matter. As a legume they provide their own nitrogen and will actually add some back to the soil if the roots are left to decompose in the ground.

Choose an open sunny site and a well drained, fertile soil, that has been manured the previous autumn. Dig the soil over and break down to a reasonably fine tilth before sowing or planting. Lime the soil if necessary.

Rake-in a general-purpose vegetable fertilizer about a week before sowing.

When to Sow

Broad beans can be sown directly into the soil (at a depth of 2in (5cm)) or sown in modules or trays under glass and planted out once frost is no longer a threat.

Sow seed for main crops in March. Sow a few more each month, up to June, for successional crops. Plants should be spaced at about 9in (23cm) apart in a double row (depending on variety). Allow 2ft (60cm) to the next double row.

Some varieties can also be sown in the autumn for over wintering and harvesting early the next year. Although, early spring sowings in February under cloches or under glass can be just as effective. Seeds germinated under glass have the advantage of being planted out as plants, and therefore easily spaced.

Taking Care of Broad Beans

Once the stem is covered with about 18in (45cm) of flowers pinch out the top shoots.

Keep weed free and water well during dry spells. Tall varieties will need support with canes on windy sites. Do not allow any stems to trail on the ground or they will be at greater risk of pests.

Pests and Diseases

The main pest suffered by broad beans is blackfly, which can smother the growing tips in summer. Simply pinch out the top 6in (15cm) of the plants (with the blackfly on) and dispose of them.

The edges of the leaves may be nibbled by bean beetles but this should not affect the crop. However, if the leaves are affected by chocolate spot (small round, red-brown spots), quickly remove and dispose of any infected plants before it spreads.

Harvesting Broad Beans

Broad beans are best picked young before the skins mature. Harvest once the bean is showing in the pod, around 26 weeks after sowing. The young pods can also be picked and eaten whole similar to sugar snap peas.

Freezing Broad Beans

Broad beans freeze well and can also be dried for storage.

How to Cook Broad Beans

Shell the mature beans and cook in lightly salted boiling water for 10 minutes, until tender.

Nutritional Value

Beans are highly nutritious. They are high in protein and fibre, and a good source of calcium and iron.

Popular Varieties of Broad Beans

Seeds are available in three main groups: longpods, Windsor and dwarf. The beans can be green, white or red depending on variety.

Broad Bean Aquadulce a hardy compact variety, popular for autumn sowing. The long pods contain tasty white beans, ideal for freezing. Several good cultivars are available. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Broad Bean 'Bunyard's Exhibition' an old time favourite and heavy cropper. Tall variety with long pods and good flavour. Excellent for freezing. Provide support as they grow. Height to 4.5ft (1.4m). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Broad Bean 'Crimson Flowered' an traditional variety with bright crimson blooms. Short pod variety. Excellent for container growing. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Broad Bean 'Express' a fast maturing type that produces a heavy crop of green/white beans. Good for freezing. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Broad Bean 'Jubilee Hysor' is a much improved cultivar with tasty light green beans. Fast maturing. Good for early sowings. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Broad Bean 'Red Epicure' a good long podded form with reddish brown beans that turn yellow when cooked. Excellent flavour.

Broad Bean 'Stereo' is an upright, high yielding variety, with tender pods that can be eaten whole like mangetout.

Broad Bean The Sutton is a popular dwarf variety that is excellent for small gardens or a windy site. Produces a bumper crop of white beans with good flavour. Ideal for successional sowings. Height to 1ft (30cm). Available at Van Meuwen.

Plant Groups