The broad bean harvest has started in earnest.
If my experience so far is anything to go by, the first harvest of broad beans around here is in mid-October and continues for about four-six weeks (I sow mine in autumn). Last year my harvest started off calmly and spun a bit out of control and stayed that way.
I struggled to keep up with the picking, and often found enormous beans on the stalks – I think they’re better when on the smaller side – about 15cm long. They are hard to see so you really need to scan carefully. And hold on to the stalk with one hand while pulling the bean with the other, otherwise you can easily break the stalks.
Depending on how many you plant, you may get a glut. I have about 30 plants to feed two and half people and that is loads. Once the beans really take off, like with any glut, you need to be prepared to be eating them every few days and you need to be at the ready to pod, and in my view, shell/skin them as well.
This is my second year growing broad beans and I now always double shell – ie. remove the pod, blanch, and then skin them. I find the skins too bitter, even when the beans are very small.
I recommend podding them within a few hours of picking. The pods soften over time and that makes them harder to split. Also, podding is a bit tedious and time consuming, and it seems too onerous to pod and skin them right before dinner, so my new philosophy is to pod them as soon as I pick them, then put them in the fridge. That way you only have to blanch and skin them before your meal is ready, and it seems easier to skin than to pod them.
Double Shelling: Skinning
I follow Stephanie Alexander’s advice and blanch podded beans for 30 seconds before running under cool water briefly, then piercing the skin and popping out the vivid green inner beans. Often the skins split so it’s not always necessary to pierce the skin yourself.
Broad beans go with flavours like: lemon juice and zest, preserved lemon, mint and dill, bacon, toasted nuts, parmesan and ricotta, and peas, asparagus and artichoke.
Here are four recipes I have tried and really liked:
Simple Broad Bean and Ricotta Pasta (Nigel Slater and Jamie Oliver)
Beef Meatballs with Broad Beans and Lemon (Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi)
Make ping-pong sized meatballs with 300g of beef mince and 150g lamb mince, 1 finely chopped onion, 120g breadcrumbs, 2 tbs each of parsley, mint, dill and coriander, 2 garlic cloves, 1 tbs baharat spice mix, 1 tbs ground cumin, 2 tsp capers, and one beaten egg. Brown meatballs in fry pan and set aside.
Cook 350g of podded broad beans to your liking (I left the skins on for this recipe and I really liked the way some of the skins came off and added more texture to the dish. The recipe calls for removing skins from half the beans and set aside until serving).
Cook thyme, six chopped garlic cloves, and 8 chopped spring onions over medium for 3 minutes. Add broad beans, 1 and 1/2 tbs lemon juice, 80ml of chicken stock, 1/4 tsp salt. Beans should be almost covered. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes.
Add meatballs and 400ml of chicken stock, and simmer gently for 25 minutes. There should be plenty of sauce once cooked, as the meatballs soak up the sauce after cooking has finished.
To serve, add more chopped herbs and shelled broad beans.
Warm Broad Bean Salad (from a fantastic local community food-growing, harvesting and cooking group the Growing Abundance Project)
Pod, blanch and skin 1kg of broad beans. Gently cook some chopped garlic in olive oil, then add skinned broad beans. Place in a bowl, add washed and chopped preserved lemon, and slithers of parmesan. You can add extras like peas, asparagus, bacon, mint or dill etc.
Broad Bean Gratin (Vegetables by Rosemary Stanton)
Pod, blanch and skin broad beans. Put two slices of bread in food processor with half a cup of parsley, then add a handful of toasted nuts (raw chopped walnuts suggested by Stanton). Finely chop and gently cook well one onion in olive oil, then add to bread and parsley mixture. Cook some peas, drain and add to broad beans. Place peas and broad beans in a baking dish, cover with bread mixture and place under hot grill until golden.
Simple Broad Bean Dip (Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Companion)
Pod, blanch and skin broad beans, mash in mortar and pestle, mix with olive oil, lemon juice, parmesan or pecorino, and salt and pepper. Smear it on lightly toasted sourdough rubbed with garlic. I think this would be great with peas and mint added. I’ve also done a similar thing with lime and garlic crushed with salt, in the absence of avocados, as a replacement for guacamole on burritos.
I’ll add more recipes to this post as I try them (and if they cut the mustard). Are there any tried and true recipes you have to share that I could try?