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Broad beans, easy and quick to grow

Opening a fresh broad bean

Broad beans are a type of bean and part of the legume family. They’re easy and quick to grow!

Basic Broad bean facts

Name – Vicia faba
Family – legume family
Type – annual

Height – 1 ⅓ to 13 feet (40 to 400 cm)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – light, not too moist

Harvest – Around 3 months after sowing

Their slight taste of hazelnut and the ease with which they can be cooked and prepared or even eaten raw make them a favorite.

Sowing broad beans

Broad beans are very easily sown, from February to April in most temperate climates, and even a bit earlier, from October to December for mild winter, coastal, and Mediterranean climates.

Broad bean sprouting from the groundSowing season and harvest season

Places with cold winters

  • Direct sowing broad beans end of winter – February-April
  • Broad bean harvest early summer – May-June

Mild-wintered regions

  • Sowing in fall – October-November
  • Harvest early spring – March-May

How to succeed in sowing broad beans

  • Break up the earth to a depth of around 1 foot (30 cm).
  • Dig grooves that are around 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) deep.
  • Place a seed every 4 inches (10 cm) along the groove, and press it down with your thumb. An alternate way of sowing is to place 2 seeds per seed hole and space the seed holes 8 inches (20 cm) apart.
  • Cover with about an inch (a couple centimeters) of soil, without pressing it down.
  • Watering using a gentle spray.

Take care: broad beans hate heat and drought which slow pod growth. This is why broad beans are planted early.

Row spacing

If you wish to plant several rows of broad beans, space them around 8 inches (20 cm) apart.

Broad bean flowersAfter sprouting

It is important to keep the soil soft and weed-free by running a hoe along on a regular basis.

Mulch helps reduce weed growth and spaces watering, too.

When plants are around 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) tall, ridge their base by about 1¼ to 1½ inches (3 to 4 cm) to anchor it and favor root development.

Starting in May, usually when broad beans or flowers start forming, pinch tips of stems above the 5th or 6th pair of leaves.

Staking broad beans

For taller varieties and if your garden is prone to strong winds, stake your broad beans so that they don’t collapse with a gust of wind.

Harvesting broad beans

Harvesting broad beans takes place around 3 months after sowing.

This time span may vary depending on climate, soil quality and watering.

How can you know when to harvest broad beans, so that they are neither too ripe nor too young?

Several clues make this a sure practice:

  • Don’t let pods grow on the stem for too long because the seeds tend to harden quite fast.
  • Pods can be picked when they reach 2/3 of their final length.
  • If you wish to harvest them dry, wait for the pods to turn black while still on the plant.

Keeping broad beans

Caring for broad beanThe best way to keep broad beans green for a long time is to put them in the freezer.

They can also keep in the refrigerator, but only for a few days.

Drying beans to keep them

Broad beans can keep for many months if they have been well dried.

Shelling broad beans

  • Dry the whole broad bean, without the pod but with the thin husk, in a dry and ventilated place.
  • When you plan to use them, remove the second skin and soak for around 10 hours in water.

Diseases and parasites that attack broad beans

Even though they are easy to grow and care for, it is important to watch over your broad beans for their main enemy: black aphids.

They can be seen attacking stems, and even pods, forming colonies of small black insects that compromise broad bean harvests.

  • Treat against aphids as soon as they appear.
  • If the colony is large and concentrated on a certain area, remove infested stems.

Watch for possible fungus attacks as well, such as downy mildew or rust on broad beans.

Good and bad companion plants for broad beans

Broad beans love growing near artichoke, dill, aniseed and lettuce.

Broad beans hate growing near garlic, red beet, shallot and onion.

Species and varieties of broad beans

Here is a short selection of broad bean varieties, which are interesting for their cultivation, productivity or taste.

  • ‘Agadulce’edsarly
  • ‘Trois fois blanche’very hardy
  • ‘Red Epicure’ – bright red seeds, broad beans grown for how they look
  • ‘Primabel’very productive, possibly the highest among all broad bean varieties
  • ‘De Seville’ – large white seeds, rather early
  • ‘Hystal’ – ideal for early growing

Health benefits and therapeutic properties of broad beans

Broad bean harvestBroad beans are low-calorie and fiber-rich foods, and help make digestion easier.

With high sugar and mineral content, such as magnesium, potassium or calcium, and many vitamins, too, broad beans have a positive impact on digestive functions and to curb exhaustion.

They are also recommended for persons with diabetes, since the carbohydrates they contain don’t change blood sugar levels.

Smart tip about broad beans

Don’t grow broad beans in the same plot 2 years in a row; better to wait even 4 years before sowing again in the same place.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY-SA 2.0: Various Brennemans
CC BY 2.0: Christian Guthier, Vicky Wakefield-Jarrett
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