Broad beans: the good, the bad & the born-again

I’ve been helping out in my parents vegetable garden this summer, and two weekends ago I cleared their broad bean patch for them. There was a load of unpicked beans, either too big to be palatable, or with house guests, like the ones in the picture below.

But there was also a bowlful of good quality beans, if a little on the large side got my taste. When they get to this size, the skins are tough and the beans tend to get a bit floury in texture and starchy in flavour when cooked. It’s best to eat broad beans when they are young, small and sweet, no bigger than your fingernails.

On the same day, I saw a delicious looking broad bean/mint/lemon zest hummus on Twitter, from @10MinGardener Mark’s website. Rather than chuck them on the compost heap, I thought I’d give something similar a go with these, to see if it could be a good way of using over-grown beans.

The best way to make larger beans tastier is to remove their outer cases, as these get leathery, tough and bitter-tasting on bigger beans. Cover with water and bring to a simmer for 2-3 minutes until you see their jackets puff and one or two start to split, then drain and plunge them into a bowl of cold water to stop them overcooking. As well as keep them green, this also helps the process of removing the outer skins… a bit of a time-consuming job, so if you have a willing teenager to hand all the better!

As you can see, these beans had just started to germinate, but they were still good enough to eat. As there was no mint at my parents’, I thought I’d experiment, and I whizzed my beans up with a good table-spoon of horseradish, juice of a lemon and a sprinkle of sumac. I used olive oil rather than a plain one. This made an interesting dip to have with potato/tortilla chips, and I thought could possibly work with beef in some way. Or it could be horrible! It was much nicer after an overnight chilling, and got devoured by a mystery fridge fairy (along with a big bag of crisps from the secret place) before I could experiment further.

As these were the last of both mine and my parents beans, I thought I’d now have to wait until next year to refine this idea… Then yesterday I eventually got round to clearing away the bean plants from my garden. As I started to snip, I noticed that some plants had begun to send up new shoots with buds from their bases, and some were also flowering.

I remembered that Mark also mentioned, in a ClearingYourBeanBed post, that you can get a second harvest from cutting back beans and leaving a few inches of stalk, but we both thought it was probably now too late in the season. As these are trying by themselves, I’m going to give them a go! I’ll remove the outer-edge ones, and keep the 6 or so middle ones (you can see in the photo these look healthier, and probably had more moisture in the middle of the bed). This will give the remaining plants less competition to make the most of the second half of the summer season.

I’ll let you know how they get on!

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